Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson

The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.  ~Kiran Desai


Close up of Kyle playing the trumpet at Slippery Rock University for 7th grade Jazz Band. 4/5/14

Kyle just turned thirteen a little over a week ago and things are already changing.  I am sad to report, yesterday was Kyle’s last formal piano lesson.  He’s been taking lessons since he was six years old.  Indulge me for a moment, while I take you there and back.

I know I’ve mentioned his music lessons from time to time.   Sweet Sounds of Music Music Reinforces Our Tight Bond Music for the Eyes and Ears When Kyle was a little tyke of about five years of age, he wanted to play the guitar. Great!  I made one of our famous deals with him.   If I got him piano lessons and he learned to read music and play the instrument moderately well, when the teacher said he was ready, I would get him guitar lessons.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.  He thought so!

Since I only believe in unconventional gifts, for Kyle’s sixth birthday, I decided to give the gift of music, piano lessons!  On his celebration day, I told Kyle what I got him, which meant nothing to a six-year-old.  I’m sure he felt “jipped” without having a tangible present from me, but I didn’t care.  I knew deep down inside this was the perfect gift.

Mom called around the area looking for a good piano teacher who would instruct our youngster in all aspects of piano.  God blessed us with a great one, Ms. Debbie! (who is my cousin Merle Piper’s wife’s sister)  Perfect, basically family!  In the more recent years, Kyle was instructed by David Emanuelson, a music student at Seton Hill University.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take Kyle for his first lesson due to work, but mom stepped in to get his musical interest started.  Before she picked him up, she stopped at the local music store and purchased a basic keyboard.  Nothing fancy, just something simple for him to practice on.  Mom commented when Kyle saw it, he was smiling from ear to ear.  He wanted to start playing the instrument right away.  Then, came the lessons.  Keep in mind, Kyle was six years old and probably forgot all about my gift to him, since it was mentioned a few weeks earlier, or he truly didn’t care until it became real.


The beginning of the trumpet! 6th grade musical From the Inside Out 2013

Mom took Kyle to Ms. Debbie’s house for his first lesson.  She said he was elated!   She couldn’t get him to settle down, he was jumping out of his skin with shear excitement!  That made my day!  In fact, Ms. Debbie was so good with my little man, that she let him strum her guitar and knock on the piano keys before starting, getting him acclimated.  Ms. Debbie said she was happy to see a kid so enthused about lessons, unlike some of her  students who were made to go and didn’t want to be there.  Good so far!

I felt like I was actually there.  Mom called me during the lesson from her car and filled me in on the events leading up to that moment.  She was cracking up over Kyle’s reaction and I couldn’t help but join in, while I was sitting at my desk at work.  I felt like I could see the scene unfold as if I was a fly on the wall.  I know Kyle all too well.

I was thrilled for the kid!  Even though many said Kyle was too young and I shouldn’t waste my money, I knew it was what he needed at the time.  My intent wasn’t to have a child prodigy, but simply to expose him to various music snippets, and the proper way of reading music and playing the instrument.  I was always told that if you can play the piano, you can play any instrument, not to mention he would be able to carry that basic knowledge with him for life.  Like mom always says, no one can take education away from you.  I agree!  Learning something at any age is a good practice.


Kyle (7th grade) & the trumpet line at Slippery Rock University for Jazz Band 4/5/14

That night, Kyle told me all about his lesson.  He had stars still in his eyes.  He demonstrated what he learned from his NEW piano books and showed me his NEW keyboard.  He was still lit up like a light bulb hours later, from his earlier adventure.  His energy and positive reaction drew me into his experience.  I couldn’t help it, I was psyched, and they weren’t even my lessons!  I did ask Kyle, “So you think you’re gonna like it?”  While I was asking the question Kyle began nodding his head in affirmation before responding “Yes, Aiya (Aunt Heather)!  I love it!”  My heart melted for this little boy and his desire to play the piano.  All I could say was, “So you like your birthday gift?”  Simply he replied, “Yep!”

Over the years, I can honestly say Kyle always did enjoy going to lessons.  I’m not sure if it was the lessons, or the fact that all attention was on him, or he enjoyed learning, or he loved getting stickers (early), or the kudos and positive reinforcement that Kyle thrives on.  Perhaps is was all the above.   He didn’t always like to sit and practice at home, unless we were giving him our undivided attention.  Then, he would practice and practice.

Occasionally, Kyle would explore his keyboard and start playing pre-programmed music.  Sometimes he would get up and dance around the living room or march around.   He was so contagious when he was just plain having fun that I would find myself following in his footsteps.  He was our very own pied Piper (pun included).  He would also get a kick out of playing a song with the sound of another instrument.  Sometimes he would choose the flute or the violin etc. while practicing his lessons.  He always did love to discover different sounds.  I’m guessing it was his way of challenging himself or to spice it up a bit, maybe both.

From early on, we were told Kyle was doing very well.  (Too bad he didn’t practice regularly and wasn’t encouraged from everyone to do so)  He was able to identify different notes just from listening and he started to pick up reading the sheet music pretty well too.  When learning to play with his left hand, he seemed to do so effortlessly, relative to a youngster.  Yep, that was the right move for Kyle at that age.  Please keep in mind, there’s no doubt he has a talent, but he never really tried, leaving his untapped potential a mystery.   Although if he would have practiced more, I bet he would have even impressed himself.

I always tried to encourage Kyle with piano.  I remember when I exposed him to the music of Elton John and the piano man himself, Billy Joel.  He was definitely intrigued.  He even enjoyed some classical music I gave him.  On a side note, one evening we came across MTV Cribbs.  You know the show they walk through the house(s) of the rich and famous.  That evening they were showcasing 50 cent. (I think).  Kyle’s eyes were huge!  He was floored at the grandeur of the place, mostly the electronics.  I told him to keep up playing the piano and he could be that wealthy.  He asked, “I can make money playing the piano?”  Too cute!  My response, “Heck yes!  If you are really that good and dedicated to your discipline.”  He practiced the piano that night without instance!

Eventually, I did get him a guitar and lessons for a later Christmas, in addition to his piano lessons.  Again, unconventional gifts are the best for a growing, curious, smart little boy.  He was never at a loss for toys, especially Thomas the Tank Engine and later Legos.  Mom and dad and Nicole always had that covered!  I handled the gifts that would eventually shape our rug rat from the inside out.

I believed by the time Kyle was eight or nine years old, he was playing the piano with ease and strumming his way through the guitar.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, he would also learn to play the trumpet in junior high and join the jazz band.  I’m glad my family and me were all apart of building the foundation for Kyle’s love of music and his musical abilities.

With the exception of maybe a half a year to year, when Kyle chose to focus on guitar, he always played the piano from the age of six to thirteen.  He was definitely better at piano than guitar, but of course he had more practice.  Although, I was told from Ms. Debbie who initially taught him to play both instruments, that he picked up the guitar better than most.  He was a natural with using his hands on the instrument, without looking at the strings and keeping his eyes on the sheet music.  Again, piano was a good choice for him initially.

Was all that running around and moving schedules and expense and sometimes fighting with Kyle to practice worth it?  Every last second of it!  That was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.  I am so grateful that my parents and my sister all helped me to encourage Kyle and reinforce his lessons.  Also friends and other family members were wonderful when asking Kyle about his music instructions.  The Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group let Kyle play Christmas tunes for those attending the soup kitchen one year.  This positive reinforcement helped shape him even more.  I know his dad would have also helped to encourage Kyle too!  He probably wouldn’t have missed a lesson.

Honestly, I am sad over Kyle’s decision to stop his piano lessons, but it was always his choice.  He was given the opportunity to stop at any time (unless he was paid up until a certain point).  Yes, sometimes the lessons were an inconvenience when making plans, especially in the summer, but it was a good obstacle to have to work around.  Mom helped out a lot and would step in when I couldn’t.  Personally, I loved taking Kyle to his lessons and sitting there listening to him play and watching him progress over the years.  Mostly, I treasured my time with Kyle and truly enjoyed hanging out with my little man on an off beat day, just the two of us.

Kyle still plays an instrument, the trumpet.  Unfortunately, his guitar days are a thing of the past and maybe the piano will join the guitar in the land of the forgotten, but he’s still involved in music.  He’s in the jazz band at school and wants to join the high school marching band playing the trumpet.  I can’t wait to be a band parent and watch him in his next years of musical progress!  I am very proud!

On another side note, since Kyle’s interests are now into War Machine, I guess I’ll have to take up a new hobby to hang with him.  At least we still have snowboarding!

Check out Kyle’s sixth grade musical.  He’s in the front row, second from the left in the stripped shirt.  This was taken in the spring of 2013.

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

Warmth of Winter

Tell me a story of deep delight.  ~Robert Penn Warren


Seven making his way through the snow on a hike. c. 2012

Being a Pennsylvanian gal, I do appreciate all weather and I love cycling through the four seasons.  Personally, I couldn’t imagine skipping a winter, summer, fall or spring.  It’s true I do have my favorites, winter and fall being the top two but again, I love all seasons.

I also like all weather.  Whether it be rainy days or brisk chilly evenings, just like the seasons, there’s always something to do in any weather condition.  Even a snow storm?

You bet!  The snow may have continuously fell all weekend, and it wasn’t what I would call a snow storm, but it was nice and cozy.  In anticipation of the horrible road conditions, Nicole came home on Friday night to visit.  We were all going to go out to eat for my dad’s birthday, belated.  The only place we ended up going was to church, for not wanting to chance it on the snow covered roads.


One place we sled ride, my cousin’s field. This is the view. 2014

Was I upset or disappointed?  Nope!  Not in the slightest.  There’s nothing like warming up in front of the fireplace when the snow is falling outside, drinking hot chocolate, and getting cozy with the family and dogs alike.  Sure I would have also enjoyed being on the slopes getting a few miles on my snowboard, but I wouldn’t change a thing all weekend.

A few board games made the list of activities, Kyle and I played a mean game of Battleship and Nicole and Kyle played Kyle’s beloved Summoner Wars.  (Not really my cup of tea, but I’m sure one day I’ll have to learn to play.)  We watched movies, took naps and Kyle played his video games for probably too long, but we all did our own thing, and loved it.  I even took the time to work on some freelance work and write.  Did we take advantage of the snow?

You bet we did!  We even went sled riding at night!  I haven’t done that since I was a kid.  For some reason shooting down over the hill in the darkness, with only my parents spotlights on the side of the house to light our way is exciting.  Nicole even joined us and rode down the hill a few times.  That made Kyle’s night!   He really wanted to sled ride with his Aunt Nikki and he got his wish.  Me on the other hand, Kyle knows I love playing in the snow so it wasn’t a big deal but expected.


Scooby checking out the snow on a hike … wonder what he spots? c. 2012

We let gravity drag us through all the powered to the bottom of the hill and then we fought that same gravity to walk back up.  We did this so many times I lost track, at least I did.  The dogs got their exercise too.  For they chased me down the hill and ran back to the top to start again or find another poor soul to chase.  My sister’s dog Avery (a.k.a. Acorn) had a headlight on her collar that Nicole turned on.  For some reason that really cracked us up.  We played outside until the cold soaked us through and we agreed it was time to warm up.

Nicole and Avery left mid-day Sunday so they could take their time, in case the roads were still bad.  All-in-all it was a nice relaxing, lazy-day weekend.  I don’t care what anyone says, there’s nothing like being warm and toasty in the cold of winter.  Getting out and playing in the fun that winter brings is nice too!

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

I Don’t Need a Coat, It’s Not Cold

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Snowboarding – the Beginning…

We all started snowboarding in the beginning as a family just to be closer together, go on trips.  It was our soccer, but instead of dad yelling at me from the sideline he is there riding with me and hitting the jumps even before I am hitting them.  ~Shaun White


Me, Casey & Kyle taking a break from snowboarding. The Foggy Goggle fireplace is the best! 7 Springs 2009

Snowboarding has become something of our thing between me and Kyle, starting him when he was three years old.  One snowy day at my parents house, I decided to strapped my snowboard on and ride it down my uncle’s field.  Kyle was fascinated by the sport.  S0 I placed his little feet between my binding on the board, held his hands and rode him down through the powder.  Kyle just loved it!  Now I wasn’t going fast, or doing anything special.  We just rode the one side of the board and fell over into piles of snow when we felt like the run was done.  He seriously had a blast!  We both walked up and down the hill and I strapped myself in and out of my bindings countless times that day.  On a side note, I was beat!  My legs and arms got a workout!   We rode past sunset and all the way into night.  Kyle didn’t want to stop, he wouldn’t admit he was getting cold and wet, but I knew better.  Since we started in my parents yard and passed over the driveway before heading down the field, sometimes I would get stuck on the driveway.  Dad joined in on the unplanned fun and assisted us by giving me little pushes to get us going.  That one random fun day started Kyle’s love of snowboarding.  In fact, at one point Kyle looked up at me and said, “Aiya I’m a snowboarder!”  With a huge proud grin spanning my face, I encouragingly said, “Yes you are buddy!”


Kyle throws me a smile while riding the chairlift at Snowshoe WV… snowboarding fun! 2010

A bit small and young to be riding, I decided to try Kyle out anyway.  I figured he was low to the ground and pretty patted so what could it hurt?  Kyle really enjoyed snowboarding or at least the idea of it.  When he was four years old, I took him up on the slopes to officially ride his first run.  He was fearless and loved it!  Since I never taught a youngster to ride before, I thought it might be better to get him an instructor.  That was his Christmas gift, I purchased him instructor lessons and his jacket, bibs and gloves.

His first lesson was at Hidden Valley.  As soon as he reached the top of the Bunny Slope, we strapped him in and helped Kyle to his feet.  Instantly, he stretched one arm out in front and one behind himself, like he was giving us a yoga pose.  He turned to the instructor and said, “Let me go!”  A very puzzled and shocked instructor looked at me, I shrugged and gave the nod.  Kyle went down the run and even did a little jump, only maybe a inch from the ground, but never lost composure.  When he eventually crashed in a pile of snow, he gave me the biggest grin from his tiny little round head.  I knew he was hooked!


Kyle ready to get on the chairlift at 7 Springs 2009

A year later when Kyle turned five I took him back up to the slopes.  Since he was a little man, I’ve always and still do, rent his boots and board.  Trying to keep up with repurchasing his gear year-over-year to coinside with his growth spurts just seemed silly.  Plus, I never knew if he was going to change his mind and decide he didn’t want to be a boarding dude anymore.  So far so good, he still loved snowboarding and was having a blast.

One trip to Seven Springs had me in stitches.  Kyle was riding down the bottom of Fawn, and every time he would crash I helped to his feet, so to speak.  Kyle’s swimming instructor, who also happened to be a ski instructor was there with us.  She was along for the ride, and I’m sure for the pure humor of the day.  It only takes an instant for something to happen.  In this case it was one of the funniest sights ever seen on the mountain.

As Kyle rolled into the powder, I helped him up and literally helped him right out of his boot, which were incidentally strapped into the bindings, attached to the snowboard.  Again, Kyle was pretty young and little to be snowboarding, which means his boots didn’t quite fit him.   We had to settle for the smallest boots and board they had, but even with thick socks the boots were still too big.  So needless to say, the gravity and the slick snow did their job and allowed the board to continue on its course of action, without Kyle.  It was hilarious!  The boots were still perfectly strapped onto the board as it ran away from us.  Just then, Kyle in his bright blue winter socks and wearing his helmet that looked like a planet sitting on his tiny shoulders, were running down the slope after the escaped.  It was the funniest sight!  This little guy of about three feet, wearing Smurf blue socks, a noggin that was too big for his frame (his head was always large and round) and his little limbs sticking out from his sides like he was Ralphie in the Christmas Story, was working his way toward the runaway snowboard.  I was dying!  Not being able to assist Kyle, as the onlookers saw, I was laying in the middle of the trail laughing so hard, tears fell from my eyes.  I will say it again, that was one of the funniest sights!  I wasn’t the only one who found humor in the event that unfolded in front of me, so did my companions and those directly above us on the chairlift.

Eventually, someone further down the path saw the possessed snowboard and stopped it.  Kyle ran to claim his board and waited for me to gain composure and ride down to him to start it all over.  Kyle didn’t seemed phased by what happened.  Probably because he didn’t know, that wasn’t suppose to happen.  At least he wasn’t afraid of it happening again.

To this day, I still can see that story unfold right before my eyes, as if I was watching a rerun on TV.  When Kyle and I were riding this past weekend, I brought that story up again.  He kind of remembered it, but still loved hearing the story retold, as it has been every year since.

For the next couple of years, Kyle’s Christmas gift included a season pass to Seven Springs.  He always seemed pleased with that gesture.  Ever since that faithful day, with the use of my parents yard and my uncle’s field, Kyle always wanted to snowboard with me.  I will admit, secretly I wanted him to enjoy snowboarding as much as I do.  I couldn’t be happier!  He’s the coolest!

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

Starting With a Snowboarding Bang!

I totally forget about snowboarding in the summertime.  ~Shaun White


Me & Kyle snowboarding… our 1st run of the season 7 Springs 1/5/13

On Saturday, I took Kyle snowboarding at Seven Springs.  It was sincerely a perfect day.  The sun came out to expose a brilliant blue sky and white fluffy clouds, the temperature remained in the twenties, the windchill was low and it wasn’t too crowded.  Saturday was the first time we were able to get out this season.  Unfortunately, last year I didn’t get my board out, not even once, due to a lack of a real winter.  But this season I decided to take advantage of the winter conditions early.

Once the snow falls, Kyle always reminds me about snowboarding, that and sled riding.  Two of his favorite winter pastimes.  This year, I saw in Kyle’s expression and heard in his voice, the sounds of disappointment and accusation from skipping a snowboarding season.  He reminded me all summer that we didn’t go out once and he continued to reiterate the same over Christmas.  If I could help it, history was not going to repeat itself and Saturday was a testament to that.


Me, Casey & Kyle taking a break from snowboarding. The Foggy Goggle fireplace is the best! 7 Springs 2009

We had a great day!  After we ate lunch we stopped into the Foggy Goggle to sit by the fireplace.  I know it’s a bar, but that fireplace is always blazing and no one is ever hanging around it because they’re at the bar.  That’s my secret location to sit and relax and warm up before heading back out.  I have been taking Kyle there when he started snowboarding at four years old.  In fact, while we sat on the bench in front of the fire waiting for our cloths to warm up a bit, Kyle nearly fell asleep.  He never does that, so I know he must have already had a good workout during our morning runs.   I leaned over to Kyle and commented “You know buddy, you’ve fallen asleep in here many times before.  When you were really little, I would lay my coat on the floor, in front of the fireplace and you would take a nap until our cloths were dry.  Then we would head back onto the slopes.”  Kyle smiled at me and said, “I did?  How big was I?”  He is too funny!  I showed him about how much space on the floor he consumed and where I placed him safely out of the way.  Everyone would walk past this cute little blond haired boy, peacefully sleeping and smile.  He really was way too cute!


Me & Kyle ready to board the chairlift at 7 Springs 1/5/13

Funny story.  The Foggy Goggle had a larger than life statue of the Captain Morgan pirate in the one entrances.  The first time I had Kyle in there to sit by the fire, we had to pass this monster statue that no doubt caught his eye.  All of a sudden Kyle tugs on my arm and says “Look Aiya, Captain Jack Sparrow!”  What do you say to that?  After I was done laughing, I said, “Ya buddy, looks like him doesn’t it?”  Kyle was so happy about recognizing what he thought was the Pirates of the Caribbean character, I didn’t said a word.

Though, he did bring it up to my parents and I had to pull mom aside and explain what he was talking about.  Mom just rolled her eyes and asked if he was allowed in there.  It’s not like I plant him at the bar and order him shots.  We just take advantage of the emptiness surrounding grand old fireplace and the warm heat radiating from it.

When I hit the slopes, I like to go early.  One, because I like getting a head start on the day and it’s usually not too crowded, making it easier with Kyle.  I’m not a big fan of crowds, particularly the swarms of them who all seem to have just started skiing and are zipping past my little guy with uncontrollable movements.  Also, let’s face it, I’m not the most patient with waiting in line to ride the chair lift either.  Hence why I like to get on the slopes early.  If they would allow riders on the run at 7:00 am, I would be there waiting to partake.

Once we got past the fitting of the snowboarding boots, we were golden.  Yes, let’s discuss the boots.  Kyle has this thing about his cloths,  particularly his shoes, touching his skin.  He doesn’t like anything to be fitted, I’m not talking tight, I’m talking fitted perfectly to his body.  Nope, not for Kyle.  If his shoes and cloths are not hanging off of him, he thinks they are too tight and throws a big fit.  Did I mention snowboarding boots are suppose to fit?  They need to be snug, not tight, but not loose.  They need to be able to respond to the rider when he/she turns to carve.  And to do that, the boots need to be fitted, not hanging off his feet.  I will admit it does take a bit to get used to wearing snowboarding boots, especially early in the season, until you’re body is warmed up and loose.  Listening to Kyle complain about the boots most of the day, drove me crazy, to be honest.  But he wasn’t too bad I guess, nothing I didn’t expect.

My goal of the day, besides improving Kyle’s riding, was for him to become independent on the mountain.  Not that I was planning on abandoning him, never ever!  I’m talking about managing his own board.  Kyle never really buckled his own bindings before and I always helped him up whenever he fell.  I don’t generally baby Kyle, but he started snowboarding so young, I really had to assist him and then it became a habit for both of us.  A habit I wanted to stop this year, after all he is eleven.  I tried to be as hands off as I possibly could, forcing him to do for himself.  Did I also mention the kid has NO flexibility?

By the time we rounded out the day, Kyle was gaining a little bit of flexibility and doing pretty good with pulling himself up and bending over to strap on his own bindings.  Along the way, Kyle did receive some assistance from kind on lookers.  Much like myself when I first started snowboarding.  I guess we both either have that look of being purely pathetic or being too cute to pass up.  I vote for the later, but I have a feeling reality lies in the first.


Kyle took a picture of my raccoon hat wearing goggles… snowboarding at 7 Springs 1/5/13

Kyle was even managing to get on the chair lift by himself, of course the few extra inches he’s grown over the years helped in that department.

Our runs on Saturday was a testament that Kyle didn’t miss a beat from two winter’s ago.  He is not the strongest rider, or the most daring but he can hold his own.  He just needs practice.  There were a few times when someone was going to run into Kyle and he reacted pretty quickly to avoid a collision.  I was quite impressed, thinking I was going to have to peel him off of the run!  But nope he maintained control when the other party didn’t.  Good job buddy!

Kyle is also a considerate rider, always looking over his shoulder and beside him for others that are sharing the mountain.  He never pushes or cuts people off either.  He will wait patiently for others to get out of his way and he never wants to hurt anyone.  That’s my Kyle, still wearing his big heart on the slopes.

Throughout the day, we couldn’t help but getting silly.  It wouldn’t be a typical day for us if we didn’t.  Every time I put my goggles on top of my head, which is wear my raccoon hat was resting, Kyle would start laughing.  He said it looked like the raccoon was wearing the goggles.  And it did!

Speaking of raccoon hat.  There was someone there wearing a HUGE raccoon skin cap, complete with a tail.  It was ridiculous!  It was so big and obnoxious  on the person’s head that it looked like an actual raccoon was hanging on for dear life.  Every time we saw it, we busted out laughing!  You couldn’t miss it.  I thought we were on Wild Kingdom.

Hopefully this year brings us more of those days.  I’m not necessarily talking about the conditions, but the time spent together.  We had a blast and I really cherish my one-on-one time with Kyle.

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

Seeing the World Through Goggles

Cherish those precious moments because their will come a day and time when the children are challenging and unruly, but it is always worth being patient and getting through those harder days.  ~Unknown


I posed Kyle in my snowboarding goggles when he was 6 months old. 1/2002

Now that we are approaching snowboarding season, hopefully, since last year we didn’t have much of a winter, I thought of this adorable story.  It always brings a smile to my face.  Every now and again a memory from my mental diary surfaces, and this one was too cute to pass up.

It starts with Kyle, maybe three years old or there about, I’m going back roughly eight years.  I met a friend of mine, her sister-in-law and her son at the Olive Garden for soup and salad.  Naturally, I had Kyle with me because more than not, he’s attached to my hip.  Of course I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Us Piper’s never leave our little man behind.

Being a little tyke, Kyle’s car seat was in the backseat strategically placed in the center so I could see him in the rear-view mirror.  Not to mention, I always thought it was safer in case there was an accident, then he would be protected by the surrounded space.


Me in Breckenridge Colorado… love those mountains! c. 2009

Surprisingly (sarcasm), my snowboard was in the car along with my gear.  I fold down the back of one seat and slide the board through the trunk to rest on the now constructed flat surface.  That’s were it resides most of the winter.  Never know when I need to hit the slopes for an emergency snowboard ride!  Well, for whatever reason I had my goggles in the house and Kyle felt the need to put them on.  He didn’t just put them on, he placed the goggles over his eyes and kept them there even as we left the house.  Yep, we departed to start our journey to meet up with Holsters and her sister-in-law, and Kyle’s accessory of choice was a pair of snowboarding goggles.  To be honest, I thought he liked them because it kept the cold air off of his face and the sun out of his eyes.  I usually wear tinted goggles.  My eyes are really sensitive to the sun, especially reflecting off of bright snow.


Kyle’s 6 month old photo shoot… I knew he was going to love snowboarding! 1/2002

As we drove to the restaurant, Kyle just sat in the backseat sporting the goggles like it was normal.  I fully expected him to remove the protective eye wear when we got inside.  Nope.  He kept the goggles on his face like they were his reading glasses.  He went along his business eating and hanging out, all while wearing the goggles!  Holsters looked at me like ‘What is up with the goggles?” and my only response was, “I have no idea, but he seems to like them.  I’m excited!  Snowboarding here we come!”  In my eyes, his positivity toward goggles meant he likes to snowboard.  I know that’s silly, but that’s how I spun the situation.  At this point, I don’t I took Kyle snowboarding yet and he never saw me ride.  But you know, I think he associated those goggles with me.

Kyle was really too cute!  Our server couldn’t even help but giggle and smile at this little bleach blond haired boy, wearing snowboarding goggles while eating!  You should have seen all the looks as we walked in the restaurant and lets not forget when we exited the joint.  Kyle didn’t seem to mind.  He didn’t relish in the attention but he didn’t shy away from it either.  It’s as though he didn’t notice anyone staring.  Kyle certainly turned a lot of heads, this time for a good positive reason.  I must say I was proud to walk beside this content young man, who was so enchanting, I even fell under his spell.  To this day, I wish I would taken a picture of video of the event.  But alas that memory is mine, and those that witnessed it.

You know it’s those unplanned precious moments that stick with us forever!

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

Snowboarding? Not Yet!

A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!  ~ Anonymous

Kyle sitting on ski lift in Snowshoe WV Aunt Heather Piper

Waiting for another run. Snowshoe, West Virginia c. 2010

You know, I am definitely more of a cool weather girl.  I tend to favor fall and winter over the heat and humidity.  You know what?  I think Kyle is the same. He hates being overheated and sweaty, he tends to be a salt water covered kid, all year round.  Sometimes perspiration  just pours from his head.  Even when he was a tiny little baby, I used to walk around with him in a papoose type of baby carrier.  I would place him in this backwards type of book bag, hanging off of my chest.  I loved it, he was safe and my hands were free.  Man, did Kyle make me hot!  It wasn’t too bad in the winter, he was like my space heater, but in the summer it was rough.  I’m not really a sweaty person, which doesn’t do me any good when I run, but having Kyle lay on me and radiate heat, makes my body start to sweat.

Snowshoe WV Aunt Heather Piper

Stacey, me, Kyle and Casey (cousins) Snowshoe, WV 2011

Off of that tangent and onto another… Lately we’ve had unseasonable weather.  It’s been in the 50’s and rainy, except this week, which is just cold with a hint of snow.  I will admit, during the dog days of summer, I do wish for winter.  I enjoy all seasons, but I love snow!  I don’t know if it’s from me or not, but Kyle always wishes for the snow to fall too.  He loves to sled ride and be my little snowboarder buddy.  I started Kyle out on a board when he was three years old.  Taking him on my snowboard in front of my parents house, which is on a slight down hill that opens up into my uncle’s field, that was the easiest way to start him out.  I had Kyle stand in the middle of the board while I was strapped in, holding his hands.  We would go down the hill and eventually fall over into the fluffy snow.  We had a blast!!  Sometimes, during our trek across the driveway, before getting any momentum, we would get stuck and dad would stand there to give my shoulder a push and get us going again.

Going down hill wasn’t so bad, not that that’s a surprise.  But it was tough unstrapping my bindings and carrying my board up the hill while holding Kyle’s hand.  He had a hard time walking in the deep snow.  Those little legs where just long enough to get up over the snow, let along make them move up a hill covered in snow.  It was all totally worth it!  We must have made at least 20 runs before calling it day.  In fact, we kept it up in the dark.  Dad turned on the spotlights along side the house so we could see.  We rode until I realized Kyle’s gloves were pretty wet and his hands were getting cold.  He didn’t want to go in, but I told him I would make us hot chocolate and we would warm up.  Reluctantly he agreed.  Even though my body felt like I ran a marathon, not that I know what that feels like, but I can only imagine.

Kyle snowboarding at Hidden Valley Aunt Heather Piper

Taking a break from snowboarding at Hidden Valley. c. 2010

Now back to the present day, last Wednesday to be exact.  As Kyle and I watched the news, showing a brief clip about the town in Alaska that was dumped with 18 feet of  snow, (Yep, not inches, we’re talking feet)  it was funny, I could see Kyle’s brain trying to comprehend what he heard, making sure he understood what the news anchor reported.  I said, “Did you hear that?  They have 18 to 20 feet of snow.  Not inches, FEET!”  Putting a real emphasis on FEET.  His eyes were in shock and then he turned his head toward the front door, threw up his hands and gave a ‘Where’s our snow?’ gesture.  Meanwhile, it was raining pretty hard outside.  I said, “I guess it’s all in Alaska.”  I knew what his response was all about.  You see, Kyle looks forward to hanging with me on the mountain, as do I.  It’s hard enough to maintain patience for myself when I’m waiting on the snow, but trying to be patient with Kyle is an almost unrealistic task.

Recently we did start receiving snow, which I knew would eventually come and currently go.  But I must say, those 18 feet seem like more fun than our couple of inches and light dusting.  I’m really blessed and happy that Kyle and I have our hobby together.  Maybe that’s why I look forward to winter.  I get to hang with my Narrow in God’s country.

Check out the Cordova Alaska snow situation.

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

True Penn State Role Model

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. ~John F. Kennedy

Lisa with her dad, Dr. Arbuckle - Aunt Heather Piper

Lisa with her dad, Dr. Robert Arbuckle

Unfortunately the world is not perfect, but I believe there is more good than the opposite. Good deeds and hard work are done by many without the desire for recognition and public attention.

To those of you who have made a positive impact on those around you, it’s the small deeds that sometimes mean the most and have the greatest impact.  Those of you who stood a few extra minutes to hold the door open, those of you who gave change to the person who was short at the checkout line, and those of you who simply walked past and gave a heart warming smile. It’s those actions that mean the world to the recipient.  To me, those people are the real leaders, they make the changes in the world, however slight, are for the betterment of mankind.

My sister is a Penn State Alumni, as well as many of my family members and friends.  I am not trying to under play the severity of the recent acts of some Penn State authority figures, not in the slightest. But I do want to recognize greatness that have come from Penn State.

I have been blessed throughout my life to meet many great people, including a true role model, Dr. Arbuckle.  I’ve know Dr. Arbuckle and his family for years now.  From the time I met the family, they have always welcomed me as a part of their own.

Every year the Arbuckle family gets together to rent a house in the Appalachian Mountains.  It’s a fun time of snowmobile riding, skiing, snowboarding, and snow shoeing.  A few years ago, I was invited to spend the weekend with my adopted family.  During an uneventful afternoon, I had the privilege of sitting with Dr. Arbuckle to shoot the breeze.  At the time, I was reading Winston Churchhill’s History of the English Speaking People.  Starting out his career as a history professor, Dr. Arbuckle was probably the only person who didn’t roll his eyes or look at me with the look of ‘Why’ when he saw my reading selection.  You see, I too have always loved history, particularly art history.

Penn State Logo - Aunt Heather Piper As I sat there and talked with Dr. Arbuckle, I realize that he was a real humanitarian and a truly inspirational person.  I always knew he was very intelligent and successful, that goes without saying, but my eyes were really opened to the virtually unknown man sitting before me.  Without an audience, no one taking notes, no one recording the conversation (I wish I did) we talked casually.  First about history, specifically Churchill, until the conversation grew to cover many more topics.

When he told me about his efforts to rid the world of polio through the Rotary Club, I couldn’t help but be drawn into his  passion for the topic.  His passion to help these children, nationally and abroad.  Yep, he told me that there are still outbreaks of polio in the United States.  I had no idea!  Speaking to him on the subject really reinforced my admiration for him on many different levels.  I’ve always had a respect for Dr. Arbuckle for what he’s accomplished in life, but at that point I saw so much more to the quiet gentleman sitting across from me.  There is so much I got out of our conversation.  I could go on and on about what a great father and grandfather he is and a true leader in the community, but my words would never do him justice.

Please take a moment to review this news release on Dr. Arbuckle.  It barely touches on the impact he has made to many, including being an inspiration to his family and his adopted family… me.


Naming of Arbuckle Building honors former New Kensington CEO

Friday, November 11, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Board of Trustees today (Nov. 11) approved the naming of the Robert D. Arbuckle Technology Building at Penn State New Kensington, in recognition of former campus executive officer.

“Dr. Arbuckle has been a vital part of Penn State New Kensington’s growth for more than 40 years,” said Kevin Snider, campus chancellor. “His unending energy, humor and devotion to his profession, served not only the campus, but the community as well.”

Arbuckle, who holds a master’s and a doctoral degrees from Penn State, began his career in 1968 as a professor of history at the University Park campus. Six years later, he was appointed chief academic officer at the New Kensington campus. In 1977, he was named campus executive officer and remained at Penn State New Kensington for 15 years. Arbuckle assumed the presidency of Lake Superior State University in Michigan in 1992. He retired in 2002.

Under Arbuckle’s leadership, the New Kensington campus expanded both academically and physically. Three degree programs — a bachelor’s degree in electro-mechanical engineering technology, associate degree in radiology sciences and an associate degree in biomedical engineering technology — were added in the 1980s. Arbuckle also envisioned a new building complex that would serve the needs of students and businesses in the region. He wanted the campus to become more interactive with business and industry in the area and he wanted local companies “to use our computers.”

Coalescing community leaders, he spearheaded a capital campaign for the construction of the two-building Science and Technology Center, which opened in 1990. That building, now being named for Arbuckle, is home to many specialized engineering laboratories that enable students to pursue innovative programs in technology.

Although phase two took another 10 years to complete, Arbuckle’s campus/business collaboration became a reality in 2000 with the dedication of the multi-purpose Conference Center and Classroom Building. By partnering with industry in the region, the University increased its presence in the Alle-Kiski Valley. Last year, more than 60 regional organizations used the facilities for meetings, training classes, seminars and workshops.

After moving on to Lake Superior, Arbuckle continued his role as a visionary. He was instrumental in expanding that college’s student center; in renovating several facilities and in breaking ground for a fine arts center. He was awarded the title of president emeritus and the school’s student activities building has been named in his honor.

In retirement, Arbuckle returned to Washington Township in western Pennsylvania and resumed his bond with the New Kensington campus. In 2004, he was named an Alumni Fellow.

Arbuckle has served as president and chair of several local community boards including Rotary, YMCA, United Way, chambers of commerce, and hospitals. He has received numerous awards including the University’s John E. Wilkerson Award for Administrative Excellence and Rotary International’s Legacy to Children award for his work in polio eradication.


posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Snowboarding and have No Comments
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