Playing As Kids – Building Forts & Making Gold

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read other related blogs

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

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

Gigi Our Original Gamer – Pac-Man

I recently learned something quite interesting about video games.  Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games.  The air force believes these kids will be our outstanding pilots should they fly our jets.  ~Ronald Reagan


Nicole, Mom & Ryan hanging at grams house 1984

This past Christmas Kyle got a PlayStation 3 (PS3), not that he needed an additional means to play more video games.  But just as expected, he was ecstatic over the purchase.  What really cracks me up, is he has the Wii with a boatload of video games and Wii Fitness, which he barely plays anymore.  Let’s not forget all the games he’s purchased on his iPod Touch, the computer and he still plays with his Nintendo DS.  I guess he has a game for any occasion and any location.

With the availability of this new console, my sister decided to encourage his already obsessive behavior by purchasing him his very own Burnout Paradise and a few other games.  Kyle LOVES that game.  Every year since the establishment of ‘Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun’ Kyle has practically mastered the game and dreams about playing that game every year before vacationing at Nicole’s house.  In fact, if he hears Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses, he’ll get in this almost nostalgic state and have a yearning to visit my sister to play.  No joke!  He’s actually said to me, “Aunt Heather now I really want to go to Aunt Nikki’s to play Burnout Paradise.”  Now Nicole and Kyle can play Burnout Paradise with each other in the evenings.  Since my sister is four hours away, this is kind of a neat way to hang out, through a video game.  I guess any excuse to spend time with each other is a good excuse.


Kyle playing his Nintendo DS.  T-shirt courtesy of Aunt Nikki c. 2009

Sometimes I wonder if the desire to play video games is an inherited behavior.  Ryan wasn’t really that into video games, he would rather be outside hunting and fishing or working on cars.  Playing every once in a while, I can say I’m not really big into video games myself.  I would rather be reading, snowboarding, running or hiking.  My sister, although I would never constitute her as a gamer, does like to play video games more than any of us.  My dad, forget it.  He’s never touched a computer and the only Wii game he’s ever played was Cabela’s Hunting.  Probably because we have a plastic gun type of accessory to house the Wii remote control, giving it that kind of hunting feel.  Mom will sit and play a Wii game if Kyle pleads with her to do so.  She tries, but the games are a lot more complex than they used to be and her eyesight isn’t all that great.  Let’s not forget her reflexes aren’t what they used to be either.  How do I know?  Mom had the potential to be a modern day gamer.

Way long time ago, in the 1980’s, when Atari came out, my parents purchased us the console and a few games.  Prior to, we had a very basic game called Pong.  Not too exciting but was enough to stimulate us for a while.  Now, when the Atari arrived, it did catch our attention, at least initially.  We had Frogger, always one of my favorites and still is.  As a matter of fact, I downloaded it to our Wii console but the desire to play it isn’t there anymore.  On a side note, Seinfeld did an episode on Frogger.  It was great!

Another game which logged a lot of hours was Combat.  This one required two players and dad owned it!  Within Combat, there were different games such as tanks or airplanes.  Basically you shot each other up until someone was out of ammo.  That was up dad’s alley, not really my bag.  Ryan on the other hand loved Pole Position!  This was his cup of tea.  It was a racing game whereas you viewed the screen as if you were really driving the car.  You needed to avoid other drivers, maneuver around curves and avoid crashing.   It was fun picking the different courses.

PacMan Aunt Heather Piper

I can’t remember Nicole having a favorite game, but I’m sure she did.  A few other videos we owned included Q-Bert, Space Invaders, Pitfall, Missile Command and Donkey Kong.  There were many more games to purchase, but we didn’t get new ones just because we wanted them, only for special occasions, unlike kids of today.

atari2600 Aunt Heather Piper

This is what our Atari console looked like! Love the 80’s!

Intentionally, I left one game out of the list because it is the spotlight of my rant.  The one the only, the original Pac-Man!  I look at Pac-Man as the Angry Birds of our present day.  Coming as part of the Atari console package, along with Combat, Pac-Man was the game!  There was even a cartoon made to continue the phenomenon.  Being a relatively simple game, your yellow Pac-Man guy had to eat these dots or pills in the maze without being attacked from Blinky (Red), Inky (light blue), Pinky (Pink) and Clyde (Orange), the ghosts.  Naturally there were opportunities to power up and gain additional points.  Each level became faster and faster and the mazes changed slightly, becoming increasingly difficult.

Back in the day, mom was our master Pac-Man master.  She really was, without question.  Presently, we relive this tale of how the most unassuming member of the family, who stood on the sidelines watching everyone take their shot at the title, turned into a Pac-Man powerhouse behind closed doors.  Yes mom, kicked all of our butts!  I’ll never forget the day we realized mom rained supreme with this simple Atari game.


Mom doesn’t look like she’s having a nice day… 1980’s

It happened on the most ordinary of days.  Upon filing into the house after coming home from school, we naturally ran to the Atari console to challenge each other to a game, letting our hair down and relaxing before homework.  One of us, either me, Ryan or Nicole plugged in the Pac-Man game.  The high score glowed throughout the room, blinding our eyes and taunted us like a cruel joke.  We seriously didn’t say anything at first and just kind of stared at each other wondering who accomplished this feet without everyone knowing, and when?  Just then, mom walked into the living-room sporting a huge grin on her face, as if proud of herself for kicking her very own flesh and blood’s scores to the curb, in a single day!  Mom’s master craftsmanship of game playing was done in one day, while we were at school and dad at work.

Remaining stunned and in complete shock, we challenged mom to a game of Pac-Man, but alas it was a futile attempt at reclaiming our place, ever.  For the duration of the Atari gaming system in our household, mom was undefeated.  We sincerely tried, all of us.  We also had our cousins up, but alas the damage had been done.

PacMan Game Aunt Heather PiperMom played Pac-Man so much her wrists would even flare up and bother her, but she would push through the discomfort for the thrill of the game.  Sometimes we would have mom play just so we could watch her and learn the next levels in case one day we would make it that far.  Mom was seriously fast with her ninja-like reflexes.  It’s almost like she was using The Force to guide her through the mazes.

What was mom’s top score?  Seriously, I don’t even remember and neither does she, but I do remember it was always better than any score I’ve ever seen on any free standing Pac-Man machines found in the arcades and any friends Atari console.  Mom doesn’t really play anymore but she still lives the memories of her gaming days through this story.  Kyle doesn’t really understand, even though he knows what Pac-Man is, we had a Plug & Play containing old Atari games.  But I can tell he really can’t visualize what I’ve witnessed and what we lived to tell the tale.

Looks like mom was the Piper family’s original gamer!  Look out Kyle if you ever decide to challenge Gigi to a game of Pac-Man, you will be rudely awakened!

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

Ghostly Encounter in the Hallway

Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,

Every one lets forth his sprite
In the church-way paths to glide. ~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Nicole with Grandpap Chester We still have large picture window in front of the house c. 1974

With the release of summer blockbusters, Kyle and I have a list of movies we want to see.  While vacationing with my sister he saw Madagascar 3- Europe’s Most Wanted, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, and Ice Age- Continental Drift.  Naturally, when we see a commercial for Batman- The Dark Knight Rises or Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, we both want to see these movies as well.  Yes, Kyle wanted to see Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter except it’s rated R, so he’ll have to put that one on his future list.  Every once in a while we’ll see an advertisement for a scary horror flick.  I can’t help myself.  I always ask Kyle, “Do you want to go see that?”  Every time he rolls his eyes with a look of fear and ‘ya right’ and always sternly reply’s “NO!”  Ok I know I’m teasing him, but it does crack me up.  When the movie, The Woman In Black starring Daniel Radcliffe, Mr. Harry Potter himself, came out I asked Kyle if he wanted to see it.  Now Kyle is a big Harry Potter fan, but every time the movie trailer appeared, he almost always turned his head in fear and wouldn’t watch the advertisement.  Now this is probably the only aspect of Kyle’s existence that is not like my sister.  Nicole used to read Stephen King books and she loved to watch thrillers and scary movies.  Did I mention she goes ghost hunting periodically?  Yep scary thrillers are her thing.

I don’t mind suspenseful thrillers and scary movies but I’m not a die hard fan.  The other day I was thinking of childhood movies that I loved, and one that came to mind was The Watcher In The Woods.  A 1980’s movie starring Bette Davis.  I brought it up to mom, getting her opinion on renting it for Kyle to watch.  It was mutually agreed upon that if I do, I would never be able to get him back in the woods again!  That’s one of those thoughts that just should be deleted.

When did this fear of thrillers and suspense resonate with Kyle?  I’m not really sure.  Kyle was not always like that.  I’ve heard stories about children who hear and see more than adults, spiritually speaking.  Ironically, most adults don’t listen to children, assuming they know more than them or don’t have the time or whatever the reason.  But what’s amazing, I do believe their innocent ears and eyes pick up more than anyone.  Adults have a way of looking at something without truly seeing it.  Our minds are filled with so much crap we can’t sort it out and we can’t see what’s in front of us.  When I think like that, I remember the scene from the movie Where the Heart Is.  During the movie, Ashley Judd was referring to that horrible man who was very inappropriate with her children.  Now I’m going to paraphrase, but she said something along the lines of her children saw him for who he really was, all she saw was a Buick.  That really stuck with me!

My bible study teacher told us this really powerful story of a child in church.  It was during a silent mass, a child turned to her parent and commented on the beautiful music she heard.  First I’d like to explain that silent mass is the opposite of high mass, no singing, no music, just internal reflection and reverence.  You see, it’s said that during mass, heaven and earth join together, the sky opens up and all the deceased, the saints, and angels join us on earth for the celebration of mass, specifically during the Eucharist.  During this time heaven rolls out beautiful sounds.  It is also said that the music coming form heaven is the most glorious and spiritual tunes ever heard!  So maybe that’s what the child heard?  Now doesn’t that story give you chills?


Nicole coming out from the hallway 1974

Kyle has always loved music and dancing, as have I.  So guess what you get when you leave a toddler home alone with me on a Saturday night?  Yep, you get dance party!  When he was smaller, maybe two or three years old, we used to do ‘dance party’.  This didn’t happen too often because, well let’s face it my parents never go anywhere, but on the occasion there was something going on and I would have Kyle all to myself.  Just to shake things up a bit we used to turn off all the lights, decorate ourselves with glow sticks and turn on the music really loud, stand in the living-room and dance our butts off.  Kyle and I would totally bust a move!  It was a blast!  He would move his tiny bum left and right and would throw up his hands, mimicking my motions.  We would dance till we were so winded and covered in sweat that we had no choice but to take a break.  I’m sure anyone who looked in from the outside, through the picture window thought we were crazy, or there seriously was a major party going on.  But alas it was just the two of us having a good time. No wonder Kyle loves playing Just Dance and Michael Jackson on the Wii, of course so do I.

One time during ‘dance party’, we plopped ourselves down on the couch for a breather.  As we sat there pretty much in the dark, except for the glow of our light sticks, Kyle nonchalantly mentioned about the ghost watching us.  What?  I said, “Did you say you see a ghost?”  Very calmly he said, “Ya Aiya.”  Of course, I jump up and turned on the lights and moved my way back to Kyle’s side on the couch.  As I looked around, I saw NOTHING.  Then I started the questions,

“Do you see the ghost now?”
“Where is the ghost?”
“Over there” as he pointed to the door leading back to the hallway.
“Do you see it now?”
“Does the ghost see us?”
“I don’t know, I guess.”
“What does it look like?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Like a man?”
“Umm ya I guess.”
“What was it doing? Dancing?”
He laughed at that one and said, “I don’t know just standing there watching us.”
Have you seen it before?”
“Yep. I guess”


Ryan back by the hallway 1979

Well, I was a little uneasy, but very intrigued.  Treating it as if someone else was really in the house, I walked back the hallway to check, and to turn on a few more lights.  Kyle didn’t seemed alarmed, frightened or phased by his announcement.  I can’t say that I felt the same.  As I suspected, I saw nothing out of the ordinary, nor did I feel anything threatening or scary.  What was really funny, was me walking back the hallway whispering, “Ryan if this is you, you better not scare me!” and “Ryan it better be you and you better not show yourself!”  Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to see my brother, but at that moment if I did see him I would have needed a heart pacer.

Weeks later, I did bring this instance up to Kyle again and he didn’t seem to really remember what I was talking about.  He gave me a puzzled look and kind of remembered discussing the ghost but couldn’t give me any specifics.  I like to think it was Kyle’s dad checking in on him.  Maybe Ryan wanted to join our party!  Actually who am I kidding, Ryan was probably laughing at me and wondering why I was teaching his son to dance like that.  Or Ryan was going to finally get even with me for torturing him as a kid and scare the skin right off of me.  Now that I believe!

A year or two ago, I took Kyle to Gettysburg, one of my favorite weekend getaways.  Nicole was there following her alumni Paranormal State and Kyle and I just wanted to get away.  I must say I love taking ghost tours, not that I think I’m going to see a ghost, but usually those tours are so full of history and really fun stories that peek my interest.  They are enlightening and you always learn something.  While in Gettysburg, Kyle and I decided to take a ghost tour, which he insisted on.  Naturally it was at night and our tour guide was dressed in period attire.  At the very beginning of the tour, she started talking about the ghosts around the area.   She posed the question to the group, “How do you know you’re looking at a ghost?” with everyone just looking at each other waiting for her response of “They don’t have any feet.”  Just then Kyle, grabbed my arm and was gasping for air, while pointing to the lady’s feet.  The way her dress flared out cast a dark shadow under her skirt and made it look like she had no feet, just hovering over the ground.  I almost died laughing, yet I tried to bring rational thinking back to Kyle to calm his mind, so we could get through the tour without having him age ten years.  I had to ask the lady to pull up her skirt to show her feet.  That satisfied Kyle for the moment, although he never really did get too close to her during the tour and gave her a look like it was a trick.  In fact, he was pretty much up my butt the entire way, almost tripping me several times as we made our way past the campus.

One of the story’s our knowledgeable tour guide told us, involved spirits and an open closet door.  For the life of me I can’t remember the details, but the saga stuck with Kyle.  As the narration was being told, Kyle pulled on my arm and said, “Aunt Heather what am I going to do?  My closet doesn’t have a door yet?”  Kyle always picks the worst time to talk, because I was trying to the listen to the tour guide.  It didn’t even dawn on me that he was associating this story to himself and it was geeking him out.  I was too busy paying attention to the history lesson.  By the time we got back to the hotel, Kyle’s fear of the closet was very apparent.  He took one look at the closet, which happened to be right beside our bed and about crapped his pants.  He didn’t even want me to take a shower, for fear of being left along with the closet.  The night prior he slept on that side of the bed, closest to the closet, but on that night he switched with me and practically slept wedged under my body, to completely hide him.

As Kyle got older, I never heard of the ghost again and as far as I know he doesn’t have issues with closets.  Now-a-days Kyle is afraid of the dark, strange noises, the thought of something scarey and the list goes on and on.  Even if I would comment that there was a ghost in the hallway, Kyle would never go to his room again!  If I would bring up the closet story to him, he would instantly own a fear of it, even though I know he doesn’t remember.  I guess that’s just kids in general, they go through phases.  Some I’m glad he is done with, others I which I knew more about, particularly the ghost in the hallway.

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