Our Avatar Adventure

All the world’s a stage we’re going through.  ~Lorrie Moore

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A book I purchased for Kyle, Avatar 3-D, includes a sleeve, hardback book with images & 3D glasses. c. 2011

While writing TAKEN by Movies, I was reminded of the time I took Kyle to see Avatar.  Another day at the movies in December 2009, January 2010.  A day I had to defend my actions to a little tyke.

It was a Saturday, late morning, and it was raining none stop.  It started the day prior, and continued into the next, without a sign of letting up.  It was a typical, dreary, foggy, rainy, dark, cold Western Pennsylvanian day.  The kind that makes a person want to curl up on the couch with a blanket, in front of a roaring fire, and read a book or watch a movie.  If it was a little colder, we could’ve played in snow, but alas no such luck.  So going anywhere was a brave move, and forget about playing outside.  Kyle and I watched some television during the morning hours, and we played with Thomas the Tank Engine and his Matchbox cars.  However, the day was dragging along without the sign of promising fun.

Kyle came to me and said, “Aunt Heather (I believe I was Aunt Heather at that point, but I could have still been Aiya) I have an idea!”  He had such excitement in his eyes!  Kyle always did beat around the bush when suggestion anything, but his ideas were usually really good.  He continued, “Since it’s a rainy day, and we can’t go out, and you said during rainy days, it’s a good time to go to the movies.  Let’s see a movie!”

First, I was cracking up, because that kid never forgets ANYTHING!  I do remember saying that very thing, almost word for word.  Rainy days are perfect for staying inside and watching a movie!  I must admit that was a great idea, and I told him so!  We jumped on the computer, and I looked up the list of movies playing and showtimes.  Naturally, in addition to the movie titles, advertisements with the cover of the movies appeared in bright colors, as well as an option to watch the trailer.  Kyle, having a keen eye, was stopped at the image of Avatar.  He also pointed out the button to watch the trailer, which we did.  Okay, I’m hooked.  Even though I was interested in that movie prior to this.

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A page out of the Avatar book. There are layered images for the 3D effect. c. 2011

For a change of pace, I decided to take Kyle to Lowe’s theater in Pittsburgh’s Waterfront.  They were playing Avatar in 3D!  This would be Kyle’s very first 3D movie.  I was excited for him.  Since it was going to take us about an hour, just to get to the theater, plus parking, getting in line, and finding our seat before the movie began, we had to leave straight away!

It was a miserable rainy ride, but the idea of seeing Avatar, a movie we really wanted to see, and in 3D, kept us both focused.  The theater was packed!  Kyle commented that perhaps others had the same rainy day idea.  I concur!  We stood in a long line within the velvet rope area.  When we hit the midpoint in line, I looked at the time to realize our movie was about to being.  Still, no worries, I knew they would play a half an hour of previews, I thought we were still good.  I thought.

During this time, Kyle thinking ahead, suggested that he go and get us popcorn and water while I waited in line, to keep things moving along.  I must admit, that was another great idea, however a scary one.  Kyle was only eight years old.  Yes, I trusted he would not go off with strangers, yet he was young enough to have that decision taken from him.  Reluctantly, I gave him money and instructed him to go to the one counter, where I was able to watch him from my position, and not stray away.  He did as instructed.

Just as I got to the ticket counter, still craning my neck to watch Kyle, I noticed he too was done and headed back.  I asked for two tickets, for the 6:00 pm or 6:30 pm showing (I can’t remember the time).  Sadly, she informed me it was sold out, and the next showing was around 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm (Again, I can’t remember the exact time, only that is was too late).  They didn’t even have an opening for the non 3D movie!  Not wanting Kyle to wait that long to see a show, and then have him try and stay awake while watching, I asked my big screen buddy if he wanted to see another movie.  Naturally, there wasn’t a movie open, at least not appropriate for him, or one he wanted to see.  Plus, he insisted on Avatar.

Okay, okay, I purchased two tickets to the later showing.  I had a plan!

With popcorn and water in hand, Kyle and I made a beeline for the Avatar theater, the earlier showing that just begun.  I handed the ticket person our receipts and entered.  Yes, I know what I did. I entered the wrong theater according to our tickets, but I wasn’t’ going to wait that long to see a movie, especially with a little tyke, and being an hour away from home.

Upon entering the theater, Kyle looked at me with worry in his eyes and said, “Aunt Heather, this isn’t our movie, we’re in the later one!”  O, no I was breaking the rules.  Yes, I kind of was and I didn’t care.  I told Kyle my reasoning and I also added, “There are always empty seats, and I’m willing to stand or sit on the steps to watch the movie, making way for those who purchased tickets for this showing.”  I also told Kyle that I was aware of my wrong doing, and if we got in trouble and got kicked out, and I lost out on the movie, that was a price I was willing to pay.

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Avatar book opened showing the beautifully colored images, & sleeve with 3D glasses. c. 2011

Kyle was stressed over my actions and was torn, he wanted to see the movie, and he didn’t want to call me out on our criminal activity, especially since he was now my accomplice, yet didn’t like breaking the rules.  He reluctantly agreed and followed me in.

The previews were almost done.  At that point I figured the general public was seated.  I spotted a couple of seats close to the front, not my favorite seat, but I had no right to be picky.   I grabbed them, again if we were told to leave I would have without incidence, or if someone didn’t have a seat, I would have immediately offered mine.  Neither happened, and besides, we only needed one seat, Kyle continued to sit in my lap, especially when the action consumed the big screen.

Before the movie started, we got cozy, started munching on our popcorn.  It was actually perfect timing.  At the time, Kyle was wearing glasses.  He couldn’t make up his mind, if he wanted to wear his 3D glasses over his glasses, or watch the movie without his glasses, and just wear the 3D glasses.  I never thought of such an issue, me never wearing glasses.  Eventually, Kyle opted to watch the movie wearing his 3D glasses over his glasses.  (He was instructed by the eye doctor to wear his glasses when he watches television or for reading.  Kyle could not have handled breaking two rules in one night!)  It looked a bit awkward, but he managed.

About mid movie, Kyle leaned into me and said, “Aunt Heather, I feel a little dizzy.”  The 3D glasses made the kid seasick!  Seriously?  Yes, and I couldn’t resist chuckling to myself.  I too was a little off balance, but I think it was because we were so close to the screen.  Eventually, Kyle took his red rimmed 3D glasses off, to never wear them again.  In fact, to this day, he prefers NOT to watch a movie in 3D.  (Partially because he hates to layer up the glasses, not that I blame him, and partially because it gives him a headache.)

Well, the movie was a success, and by the time it ended, it was bedtime for us both.  We left rainy Pittsburgh to arrive in rainy Latrobe.  Loving all things Kyle, my parents wanted to see our little man and hear about our movie adventure.

Kyle was all smiles when we walked into the living room.  (That was mostly for the excitement of seeing my parents, which he didn’t see all day)

The story that Kyle told them, had me flabbergasted.  He didn’t focus on the movie, but instead on my quasi illegal activity.  He told a story of how we sneaked into the theater, leaving out that I did indeed paid.  He continued to inform my parents, the theater was full, yet we grabbed two seats.  Correction, we grabbed the seats no one was sitting in.  He also stated that he went off by himself to get our popcorn and water, again leaving out that I had my eyes on him the entire time.  Boy, his story made me out to be a thief and bad parent!  His story was quite colorful and full of adventure.  I guess Kyle has my talent for storytelling.  I didn’t mind, until mom brought it to my attention that he may tell others his story.  I really didn’t want anyone to think I set the example for a kid by sneaking into movie theaters, or letting an eight year old run wild in a busy public place.  I did have to correct him, before he continued to tell my parents about the movie.

Regardless of the rain and a few roadblocks, I had a great time, as did Kyle!

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

Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://youtu.be/YvIBKxjqdkM

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.

http://youtu.be/h2Hhal-H0PA

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

A Teenager! Happy Birthday Kyle!

When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.  ~Louise Erdrich

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Kyle & his beloved pappy… there’s a team! Kyle’s 1st birthday 7/30/02 (I was in Korea)

I can’t believe it, our little man is now officially a teenager!  Kyle is a thirteen year old, even though he’s been displaying a teenage attitude for about a year now.  Not constant, but every once in a while the attitude has slipped out of his mouth or through his body language.  I guess that’s typical growing pains.

Kyle is a great kid, he really is.  Yes he has his quarks and Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) tendencies, but overall, Kyle is a good person.  I’ve really enjoyed watching him grow up and more importantly I really enjoy being an integral part of his life and influence.  He is my best bud!  We’ve always been a team.  Even though he is finding different interests and venturing out on his own with his friends, we are still as thick as thieves, at least for now.

In honor of such a milestone birthday, below are a few key funny moments in Kyle’s life we all remember and love and some are still in effect today.  I hope these instances are as bad and as stressful as Kyle’s life will ever get!   

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Kyle & Gigi for Kyle’s 1st birthday! 7/30/02

As a baby, Kyle was always strong willed.  ALWAYS!  I would never have it any other way.  But his attitude would change in a blink of an eye.  My sister called it the 2.2.  He would go from happy little baby to upset child in 2.2 seconds.  I hate to admit it, but it was kind of funny, especially when we would laugh at him and say 2.2.  He didn’t find it humorous in the slightest, not when he was an infant nor later in life.

Kyle was never shy about sharing his feelings or his grievances with us, at any given moment.  I remember clearly one day, Kyle got made at me, I’m guessing I was instigating the little package, and he showed me.  He walked out on the porch and chucked his beloved bottle over the bannister into the front yard.  The snarly look he gave me was way too cute!  Me being me, I found complete humor in the situation.  Mom witnessing the entire thing, yelled at me to stop picking on the kid.  He was adorable, even when angered.  At least at that age.

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Kyle working hard in the strawberry fields. Pollock’s Strawberry Farm Bush Valley 6/28/14

I always did love observing Kyle with his activities.  He would spend hours upon hours lining up his matchbox cars.  Thanks to my sister he owned hundreds of them (no joke).  They always had to be perfectly in line, front to back, front to back, covering the floor or coffee table.  He would concentrate so hard, he blocked out the world around him.  Did I mention his focus included his tongue sticking out like my Uncle Sonny?  I always did find him fascinating, wondering what was going on in his little head.

When Kyle was around two and three years old, and a banana was requested, we had to peel it for him.  The banana had to be stripped down all the way.  Yes, we had to hand him a naked banana and if it broke, well, that was the end of the world.  He would throw a fit and not accept the fruit to eat and demand another.  I’m guessing he felt he couldn’t eat a broken banana or it wouldn’t taste the same or something.  It was a complete tragedy!  Usually I ate the broken pieces, which ticked him off even more.  I never gave in on this one.  He had to learn not to waste food and he wasn’t going to always get his own way.

For a few short years, Kyle would walk around the house with his Scooby-Doo slippers, which were initially three sizes too big.  He loved those things, asking to wear them every waking minute.   Surprisingly, he made his way around the house with minimal trip-age.  After he outgrew those slippers, wearing them until they were too tight, mom and I decided to take him to the store to get another pair.  He picked out ones that looked like a car, even with stuffed wheels on the side.  Letting him try them on to ensure we had a proper fit, Kyle’s mind surprised us again.  After placing the plush cars to his feet, Kyle stiffened up.  He held himself so still and hung onto my arm with all seriousness.  Why?  He thought the wheels were going to shoot him across the floor like roller skates and he was going to roll away!  Mom and I died!  We were laughing so hard, we couldn’t help the panicked kid.  He had no idea what was so funny.  Needless to say, we bought the slippers.

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Kyle’s cakeface for his 1st birthday! Pappy was under that hat … He always did love his sweets! 7/30/02

For years, Kyle believed that the sock manufacturers were making uncomfortable socks with a large seam at the toe just to irritate him.  He believed he was the center of everyone’s attention, even the sock manufacturer and they were out to make his life miserable!  Solution?  We learned that if you turn the sock inside out, the bulky seam was on the outside and didn’t really bother his little piggies.  Believe it or not, there were plenty of other sock issues, including touching his ankle, and the heel of the sock not matching up EXACTLY with his heel etc.  Unfortunately, even though these problems have toned down a notch or two, only because he wears flip flops in the summer, it’s still an argument.   He also believes socks and shoes make his whole body sweat and makes him too hot to wear cloths.

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Kyle lining up his Legos for the ultimate battle! c. 2013

When Kyle first started to wear walking shoes, getting them on with assistance, he would tell us the shoe didn’t fit if his big toe wasn’t able to be lifted comfortably in the confined space.  Yes!  He wanted his big toe to stand up in the shoe, all the way!  To this day, he won’t properly tie his tennis shoes and his hunting boots are about two sizes too big.  Although he is getting better, letting his pap lace up his boots for hunting so he doesn’t trip in the woods.  His tennis shoes still hang off of his feet, making it appear that he will walk out of them at any given moment.

While we’re on the topic of cloths, let’s discuss jeans.  Yes that basic article of clothing that everyone posses, at least a single pair.  Yes, that item that can be dressed up or down and is accepted at most venues.  Kyle HATED jeans.  From the time he was able to give his own opinion on his wardrobe, first grade or so, till he hit the junior high in seventh grade, Kyle never wore a pair of jeans.  EVER!  What did he wear?  Sweatpants or shorts.  Sometimes his sweatpants were the cotton kind and sometimes the shiny pants (which he still wears to this day)  For church, he was and still is never ever permitted to wear sweatpants.  Clothing of choice?  He has to wear dress slacks and in the summer, nice dress shorts.  At the time they had to have the elastic waistband.  Kidding?  Nope!  That always about killed him, but we worked through it, kind of.  He still hates cloths, and getting dressed for church sometimes poses a problem.

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Kyle being held by the Hulk at Legofest 2012 … Kyle’s humor!  Yes that’s made entirely out of Legos!

Switching gears a bit, train gears that is, let’s move onto toys.  No matter who played Thomas the Tank Engine, as instructed by Kyle, they had to be Diesel.  Kyle never did like Diesel, I really don’t know why?  I decided early on, this rule did not pertain to me.  I wouldn’t have a three year old tell me what I was playing with, which always resulted in little temper tantrum, sometimes a big blow up.  He would also dictate how I was to play, which direction to move and what I was doing.  Again, nope!  Kyle had to learn early on that he didn’t always get his own way and others had the freedom of choice.  I reinforced the ideas of compromise and sharing.  It was a struggle, but one learned, kind of.

Around two years and up, Kyle LOVED puzzles.  By the time he was walking till about three years, he was putting together some thousand piece puzzle sets!  Did I mention I hate puzzles?  However, I would turn over the pieces so they were facing up and sit with him while he matched piece after piece to create the picture represented on the box.  He said, “Loot pappy, I’m puzzle boy!”

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Chad Piper (cousin) & Kyle at Gutchess Picnic, Idlewild. c. 2003

Then, after the puzzles came the Legos!  Lego Love Kyle’s Lego Dream @LegoFest 2012 Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise Another Lego Christmas  Happy Lego Birthday Kyle – 11 Years Old! Lego Obsessive or Driven Going Retro With Star Wars Legos etc. That phase lasted the longest thus far.  Once he discovered Legos there was no going back.  When Kyle was five, we made a bet at his peewee football ceremony and naturally he won.  The prize?  He wanted a Bionicle man, which needed to be assembled, for ages seven and up, I believe.  Kyle always loved a challenge and began putting those pieces together and eventually graduating to a thousand plus piece Lego sets, with movable parts.  I never let the suggested age restrict him.  EVER!  I always encouraged Kyle, especially when it was a challenge!  He knew it and was always proud of himself and his accomplishments.  So was I!  Did I mention he called himself Lego Man? Yes!

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Kyle’s Lego army about to do battle! c. 2011

One last walk down memory lane.  One that we are all grateful he grew out of and did a complete one eighty, reading!  I HATE READING! Reading Brings Generations Together Reading Brings Generations Together…Or Not? Harry Potter Made Me Do It! etc.  Kyle started off loving books.  He would always drag a book to our lap and have us read and rock him in the rocking chair.  LOVE IT!  Then, came the time he had to do the reading, which didn’t go over so well.  In fact, it pushed him to hate reading, which saddened me beyond imagination.  Though, I tried many tactics to change his perception of reading, my sister remembered one method, bribery!  Yes, for a very brief stent, we would pay Kyle in cold hard cash to read to us.  Judge us if you will, but it worked and the benefits of him reading outweighed the idea of bribery.  Of course, I tried may avenues including yelling, grounding, sharing the reading, acting out the story while he read etc.  In the end the most effective was reading to Kyle, Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets, with the most gusto and the best British accent I could muster.  After that book, Kyle chose on his own to continue reading the rest of the series.  I was very proud of him.  Since then I kept up his interest in reading by buying him books anytime he needed one, getting them for him with every holiday and special occasion and sometimes reading the same books so the lines of communication were open.  Yep, that was a struggle but again one well worth it!

In addition to reading, Kyle still loves to hunt, shoot his .22 and his 243 (his dad would be proud), fish, sled ride and snowboard, build (anything), and he loves his dog Scooby (plus Seven, Avery and Storm a.k.a. Lady Fluffington).  Over the years his interest in movies have grown, being a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings (movies and books) the Avengers (all superheros), video games (mostly Minecraft) and now he’s taken an interest in fantasy games such as Summoner Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, and WarMachine.

One of Kyle’s piano lesson songs happen to be Happy Birthday. I thought it be appropriate to record it for all to share on his birthday!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you have a blessed and exciting journey!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Life Flight with Harold the Helicopter

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.  ~Thomas Keneally

Kyle-&-Pap-watching-TV-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-2003

Kyle with his beloved pap … they were always cuddling on the couch & Kyle loved his bottle … of water!

After reminiscing about My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University- ARTsylym, I couldn’t refer to that experience without including another, for they will forever be intertwined.

Even to this day, thinking about the events that unraveled on the evening of April 16, 2005 makes my heart race and pound out of my chest with fear and anxiety.  It has been nearly a decade, yet I can still remember that most horrible feeling sitting in my gut, but by the grace of God turned out just fine.

What happened?  Kyle was life flighted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Let me set the stage to put things into perspective.  It was indeed Saturday night, April 16, 2005.  How do I remember the date?  Besides it being a horrible and memorable experience, earlier that day I was at Seton Hill University in Harlen Gallery with the rest of my group, Mike, Josh and Albert, setting up our senior show.  We left, preparing to return early the next morning, on Sunday to work throughout the day to get our art exhibit ready for Monday’s opening.  Sometimes plans don’t go as planned!

As I was leaving, literally pulling out of the parking lot around 11:00 pm or so, I got a call from my mom informing me, mom and dad had Kyle over at the emergency room in Latrobe.  YIKES!  Just hearing those words, your mind races through all horrible scenarios.

Graciously, mom clarified Kyle was alright but he was really sick and was throwing up massive amounts of mucus.  I knew when I picked him up on Friday, he didn’t seem like himself, so I knew he wasn’t feeling very good.  Even when I was hanging with him on Saturday during the day, he wasn’t a typical three year old.  Mom said he wanted to sleep with her and dad that night and as soon as his head hit the pillow, mucus erupted from his throat.  So much so he couldn’t breath.

Upon hearing this explanation for the emergency room visit, I was already in route to meet them in the waiting room.  You know the dreaded waiting room.  The one that seems to steal not only hours from your life, but it appears to remove days from the calender.

kyle-with-Aunt-Heather-Piper-in-hospital-11-18-03

My poor little sick man. He was at Latrobe Hospital with phenomenon again. I didn’t care, I would jump in bed & cuddle with my little man. 11/18/03

While barreling through the automated doors, I spotted Dad holding Kyle, a weak looking three year old, who fell asleep on dad’s shoulder.  Up until this point, Kyle was in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with sever sinus issues, respiratory problems, ear infections that sort of thing. (Don’t tell me smoking around a baby doesn’t affect a child)  We were all too familiar with a sick kid.  Eventually, Kyle started to join the land of the healthy, once he had tubes put in his ears to help the drainage.  That and he also had his tonsils and adenoids removed, and later scrapped again, twice.

Once the nurse called Kyle’s name, indicating he was next in line, I happen to be holding my little man.  I followed the procession and walked him back to a weighing station.  The nurse instructed me to lye him down so she could weigh the package.  As soon as his head rested parallel with his body, he began projecting strands and strands of mucus!  It was a horrifying site!  The nurse, who was closer to Kyle, grabbed him and set him upright and started clearing out his throat so he could breath.  Once sitting perpendicular to the bed he was fine, but the minute he was lying down, he was drowning in mucus!

As soon as that happened, the other nurses came rushing over and called the doctors.  Almost immediately, they whisked him back into his own room and started an IV, sitting him upright of course.  Mom, dad and me scurried after the medical group, following Kyle.  We wanted to remain at his side so he wasn’t afraid, and to calm our own nerves.  There was always something about Kyle, and still is that calms us and puts us all at peace.  Perhaps it’s because he is a part of Ryan, my brother.  Having Kyle around means Ryan is still beside us.

The doctor checked Kyle, made some notes, left, came back, made more notes, left, came back, checked him, left and came back again.  Nurses and doctors were entering and exiting the room every few minutes, either poking him with something, or sticking him with a needle or pushing a tongue depressor down his mouth, or inspecting his ears and so on.  You name it, Kyle had everyone’s attention, which under normal circumstances he would have enjoyed.  Not so much this time, but Kyle was a pretty good sport, except for the IV.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-at-Gutchess-Picnic-Idlewild-Park-2002

Me & Kyle reading a book at Idlewild Park for the Gutchess Company Picnic. c. 2002

Without much communication, the doctor finally pulled us out of the room to deal us in on the plans.  They had already called life flight from Children’s Hospital, they were taking Kyle as soon as the helicopter arrived.  WHAT?  I felt sick to my stomach!  Just hearing the words LIFE FLIGHT makes your mind race, especially when I didn’t fully understand the severity of the situation, nor the exact situation.

Please keep in mind I am no medical professional, so my details may be slightly off, but I clearly remember what he told us.  It appeared that Kyle had strep throat.  The doctor said he had to have had it for at least a week now, fever and all.  The infection caused his tonsils to touch, cutting off his airways.  He also had an ear infection (or both), which was compounding the situation.  So needless to say he was pretty sick!

The conversation was rushed, there was no time to stop and think.  They were in emergency mode and my head was in a whirlwind.

As I’m trying to comprehend what everything means, I got the weirdest question asked by the doctor, “How much do you weight?”.  What?   Really?  Apparently, they didn’t know how Kyle was going to be on the flight to Children’s Hospital, so they were considering having me hold him for the ride to Pittsburgh.  Without hesitation I agreed!

Almost immediately we were alerted that life flight landed and soon they would be taking Kyle.  I’m telling you what, everyone from the nurses, to doctors and the entire staff were all wonderful and very patient with us.  During our short stay there, they kept us informed and moved quickly for the sake of this little helpless boy.

It was at this time, I was informed that I couldn’t go with Kyle because they brought an extra doctor in case they needed to do an emergency tracheotomy.  What is going on?  Now hearing that, I about died!  This night went from bad to worse!

Mom, dad and me were allowed to go up to the roof to see Kyle off and to make sure he wasn’t going to panic or freak out.  As soon as he was wheeled out onto the roof and saw the helicopter waiting for him, he said, “Loot, Aiya it’s Harold!”  His eyes got big and a smile even made its appearance.  Going with it, we cheered Kyle on and built up the excitement, that he was going for a ride on Harold the Helicopter.

You see, for years, Kyle was a HUGE fan of Thomas the Tank Engines.  He had all the toys and miles upon miles of tracks, accessories and naturally he owned just about every cartoon video.  He LOVED Thomas the Tank!  The helicopter from the cartoon was named Harold, hence his association.  Almost too perfect!  God was helping us all through this ordeal.

Kyle-&-Joel-Planinsek-Pavilion-c.-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Joel Olczak (cousin) & a feisty Kyle at the Planinsek Pavilion. In the back to the left is Benny Scanlon (cousin) & to the right Jim Olczak (cousin). Kyle has always been a regular at family functions! c. 2002

We stood in the doorway, for we were not permitted out on the launch pad, waved and smiled, putting Kyle at ease, even though we were completely on edge.  Once the helicopter door shut and Kyle was out of sight, we all darted downstairs to get the car.  I drove us into Pittsburgh going probably way to fast for even a race car driver.  I thought my parents might yell at me, but instead all dad said was, “There’s no cops out, let’s get there.”  Meaning, speed to get us to Children’s Hospital.

We were told it takes about twelve minutes for life flight to get to Pittsburgh, I made the hour and half trip in twenty five minutes.  Yes, one might have guessed I was speeding and to be honest, I didn’t care in the slightest, for the only important thing in my life at that moment, was getting to Kyle.

I dropped mom and dad off at the main door to find Kyle’s room and sit with him while I parked the car.  This all happened so fast, I truly don’t even remember entering the building, nor do I remember parking the car.  I do remember running through the hospital frantic trying to find my family.  Low and behold, who did I manage to find?  Yep, one of the doctors who was on the flight that I just talked to not even twenty minutes earlier.  She gave me a shocked look and simply said, “I know you didn’t obey the speed limit to get here so fast.”  I  just smiled and gave a look, ‘Where is Kyle?”  After her judgement comment, she was very gracious and led me in the right direction.

Upon entering the room, I found Kyle in ICU with a T-shirt hanging over the bottom of his crib/bed and stickers near him.  Apparently, they found Kyle’s weakness for stickers and hooked the kid up.  Did I mention they were glow-in-the-dark helicopter stickers?  Boy was he excited!  I was excited for him.

Kyle was looking a little perkier, I’m sure it helped that he napped on the flight and the IV gave him an added boost.  I remember the smile Kyle flashed me when I walked in to join everyone.  He couldn’t wait to show me his stickers!  It was a bittersweet moment of joy and excitement for him, yet uncertainty for being in the ICU.  He went on to tell me about his ride in Harold, even though the doctors said he slept the entire ride down.  Believe it or not, this kid was on cloud nine!  I owe part of that to the doctors who transported him and played up the Harold card.  They helped turn this nightmare into a dream come true for our little three year old.

Herold the Helicopter Aunt Heather PiperOn a side note, after this ordeal, Kyle played with Harold the Helicopter in a whole new way.  Even when I watched him play or when I joined in, Harold the Helicopter took on a whole new meaning and transported people around, even the other tank engines.

All night long, dad sat by Kyle’s side, never leaving.  I sat most of the night by Kyle, for we were only allowed two people at a pop.  Finally by morning, Kyle was moved to a room and surprisingly, by later that day, the doctors informed us that he was getting discharged.  I stayed until the paperwork was official before heading back to Greensburg to join my group in setting up the ARTsylum show at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University.

Even though is was a frightful experience, it was also a blessing in disguise.  Not long after that incidence, Kyle had surgery on his ears; tubes put in, eventually a permanent tube; his tonsils removed; his adenoid removed and then later scrapped and scrapped again.  He was closely watched for additional ear infections and bouts with the croup and pneumonia, all he suffered with severely up until that point.

Do you know, Kyle remembers that helicopter ride to this day?  Or at least he remembers the idea of it, fortunately not in a bad way.  He recalls getting to ride in a helicopter and he’s acutely aware that not many people have that opportunity.  Of course his was a good reason, which I don’t ever bother to bring up, I let him have his helicopter ride.  In fact, when I purchased flight lessons for Kyle for his ninth birthday, Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday he commented that he rode in a helicopter but never an airplane.

Without reservation I am truly grateful for the doctors and the complete medical staff at Latrobe Area Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.  Equally, everyone was wonderful, kind and sincere with Kyle and our family.  Mostly they helped to get him on the road to wellness while keeping him at ease.  They also started the process for his future medial procedures and monitoring, eventually getting him to healthy!

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

Influence and Association

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.  ~Napoleon Hill

Kyle-in-hospital-11-18-03 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing cars in Latrobe Area Hospital 11/18/03

Sometimes I forget how much our actions and unconscious decisions influence Kyle.  Not to mention he is a bit of a habitual person. Example.  It seems now Sunday nights have become our time to sit and read at my house. I mean no TV on, no distractions, just enjoyable reading time, squished in a chair in my living-room.  Another Example. Going for a walk doesn’t generally mean going down the hill.  It means traveling up the hill with the dogs for a walk through the woods. Another example. Me picking Kyle up during the week, means heading straight to swimming lessons, then to my house for dinner and work on homework before returning him.  I’m sure there are many more scenarios, but I couldn’t help but notice that this has always been Kyle’s way.

Did you know that up until about a year or so ago, when we would make a trip to Giant Eagle for groceries, Kyle instantly thought of the Eagle’s Nest and playing in the kids room? That was his hang out.  In fact, he would beg us to take him to Giant Eagle so he could play in the designated area, which was monitored and very safe so a parent didn’t have to worry while grocery shopping.  All the workers knew him by name, even when they’d run into us locally, completely unrelated.  Once my sister was home with Kyle, and she called me at work to say she doesn’t know what to do.  You see, she didn’t need anything else at Giant Eagle but she was told, by one Mr. Kyle Piper, to take a long time in the store.  Nicole’s solution, to call me at work since she was bored and didn’t want to rush Kyle.  We still laugh about that one to this day!  Giant Eagle did a great job with their Eagle’s Nest and their employees!  Kyle has since outgrown the age whereas he is not permitted in the Eagle’s Nest, but I do see him checking out the room every-now-and-again.

While I’m thinking about it, I’m going to step back in time when Kyle was just a little guy.  When he would play with his matchbox cars and Thomas the Tank train sets.  Kyle had this blue metal truck that was slightly larger than a matchbox car.  I don’t know where he got it, but he loved playing with that truck.  Actually, that truck would always make its appearance on the sidelines of Kyle’s play activity, usually while playing with Thomas the Tank.  He would specifically seek out the truck and have it sit there to watch all the other toys act out the imagination of Kyle.  You see, when dad become sick and couldn’t work for a short period of time, dad would pick Kyle up every Thursday and we’d keep him throughout the weekend till Sunday night.  Since I was in school during the day and mom was working, dad would spend all day Thursday and Friday with Kyle, who was still in his diapers.  Wow! I can’t believe he has gotten so big!  Anyway, one of their favorite pastimes was to go to Latrobe Airport and watch the planes take off and land.  I know Kyle would look for the helicopter, since again he was a fan of Thomas the Tank.  Harold the helicopter was a character on the show and Kyle just loved him.  Ironically, dad and Kyle sat in dad’s blue truck watching the activity while the day flew past.  What is really interesting about his weekly ritual, is the impact it had on Kyle.  Even years later Kyle looked favorably on that little metal blue truck.

By the time Kyle was around three or four years old I got him a Finding Nemo toy cell phone.  He always loved my phone so I thought he might like his own.  One time when I was driving and he was in the backseat, at the time in his car seat, he opened his Nemo phone and started talking.  I laughed so hard listening to him have an imaginary conversation with my sister.  He even said, “Ya I’m good, I’m with Ahia in her car.  When [are] you coming home?”  I couldn’t help but ask him, “Who are you talking to?” and then I heard him speak back into the phone, saying “Aunt Nitti, hold on” He moved the mouth piece of the phone out of the way to respond, “Aunt Nitti”.  Of course what was I thinking.  He even concluded the conversation by saying, “Ok talk to you later. Bye.”  You see at the time, my sister lived in Tucson, Arizona and similar to today, she called Kyle a lot to stay in touch.  Plus, I’m sure it made my sister feel closer to home through the conversations with Kyle.  I mean how she could she not?  Kyle always brightened up our days, even through a simple phone call.

Kyle-YMCA-drawing-Aunt-Heather-PiperAs Kyle got older, actually for his fifth birthday, being the practical one, I got him swimming lessons.  Taking him to swimming lessons once a week, every week throughout the year, even to present day.  Kyle was not a kid that drew a lot but when he did, sometimes he would draw me pictures of the swimming pool and him at one end and me watching at the other side, just like he sees it.  He always drew a blue square and placed a letter ‘K’ on one side, later it was his full name as he got older, and a letter ‘H’ on the other side of the blue square.  Over the years he’s made me dozens of those pictures, which I’ve kept, being my prize possessions.  I loved it!  I guess those swimming lessons and our time together really mean something to Kyle.  You know, I believe they still do to this day.

Even in the face of an emergency, Kyle still makes a clear association with specific places.  One summer about four or five years ago we were cutting down trees and clearing out brush from my backyard.  Of course Kyle was there, “assisting”.  The night before dad bought a new hatchet.  Keep in mind, for some reason Kyle was instantly infatuated with the brand new hatchet.  That morning, dad decided to teach Kyle about safety with the tool, using both hands on the handle so he doesn’t chop off a finger, not running with it, setting it down correctly etc.  I agree with dad, you can’t just expect kids to know how to do something as an adult, you have to teach them and ease them into experience while they are monitored.  Well, we just dropped an oak tree, which was covered in leaves and branches.  It was a beautiful tree that I would have kept, except it was too close to my house.  It was fun walking through the mighty oak as it laid on the ground like a maze inviting others to join in.  At that moment, Dad was sharpening his chain saw to prepare to chop it up in manageable sizes for firewood.  Kyle decided to adventure through the branches of the fallen tree with the hatchet.  Now on Kyle’s defense he was not doing anything he wasn’t allowed to do.  He decided he wanted to help his pappy out by chopping at a branch.  But what no one ever anticipated was the variable of Kyle’s sweaty hands.  You see it was in the middle of August in the middle of the day. HOT!  As Kyle chopped, the hatchet flew out of his sweaty little palms and it landed in his shin.  Yep, Kyle gave himself a nice big gash.  Not life threatening, but scary no doubt.  As dad and I drove him to the emergency room for stitches he began to worry that he was going to have to spend the night.  What?  You see for the first few years of Kyle’s life, he was in and out of the hospital with ear infections, pneumonia, tonsillitis and the list goes on.  So in his mind the hospital trip meant not just a visit, but a stay.  That broke my heart!  I think he only got about five stitches.  After the stitches were in place Dad shook Kyle’s hand and said, “Welcome to the club.”  At that moment Kyle smiled and was kind of proud, later bragging about his stitches.  Dad and I are both in that club and Kyle knew it.

Kyle continues to surprise me with this association to specific actions or activities.  About a month ago, Kyle was not feeling well, in fact he was up all night, I could tell he was achy.  I thought since he was perking up a bit, it was a good time to take an easy walk up through the woods, getting him out of the house, stretching his legs and taking in some fresh air.  Well about halfway through the trip, Kyle was clearly not well.  In fact, he said he felt like he was ready to vomit.  I could tell he was weak and dehydrated, since he was not sweating in the slightest, very unusual for Kyle.  I got him home and started to push water in him, to remove any dehydration issues and to alleviate his headache.  Would you believe that the very next weekend when we began on our weekly voyage through the woods, Kyle brought up that trek?  He said, “Aunt Heather, I don’t think that was a good idea to go hiking last time since I was still feeling sick.  I thought I was better, but I wasn’t.”  I still feel horrible for misjudging his state of health, and I would have to agree with his assessment of the previous adventure.  In fact, Kyle still brings that day up to me, not holding it against me, but just remembering it and making it known.

My little man, I pray that I never do or say anything that Kyle associates with me in a truly negative manner.  I hope he always thinks of me with happiness and love, even if I do royally screw up, which is inevitable.  But everything I do, I try to do with Kyle’s best interest in mind and out of love and respect for him.

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