Too Risky (Even For The Risky Kids)

Please Don’t Try This At Home!


Scooter Jousting

Thomas got an Aerobie for Christmas. We spent a lot of time playing Aerobie on the tennis courts over break. One day Ben got involved by riding his scooter around the court and deciding that he would be the “FPU” (Frisbee Picker Upper). Whenever the Aerobie got stuck in the pine trees just outside of the tennis courts, Ben got the “FRS” (Frisbee Recovery Stick). Thomas picked up the FRS and the scooter and headed straight for Ben while yelling, “SCOOTER JOUSTING!” My gut reaction was, “Awesome! We need another stick and two shields!” Then I came to my senses. My training as an optometrist took over and all I could think about was removing wood chips from the kids’ eyes and treating them for a fungal infections. Needless to say, Scooter Jousting never saw the light of day.


Ping Pong Dining

My parents bought us a kit that converts my kitchen table into a ping pong table. Initially I was skeptical, since most toys like that fail, but this one was awesome. The only down side is that we actually eat on this table. My first instinct was to play right thru the meals. Extra point for landing in certain foods! That was a fleeting thought. Can you say gross, disgusting and messy? We took a time out for dinner instead. Now, that didn’t stop me from putting a water glass on one side of the net after dinner. It took Thomas less than five minutes to get the ping pong ball in the cup . . . my kids are going to be very popular at the fraternity house.

Unofficial Polar Bear Plunge

We’ve done the Polar Bear Plunge at Camp Widji for the past several years. It’s a cold great way to start the year. This year I was working so we missed it. A few weeks ago we were walking by our neighborhood pool and I thought out loud that we maybe we could do an “unofficial” polar  bear plunge. Ben didn’t hesitate – he made a beeline for the pool and I’m pretty certain he would’ve jumped in. Again, I changed my mind. For some reason it’s ok to wade into a lake with about a hundred of my closest friends but jumping into a freezing cold swimming pool with only my kids seemed just plain crazy.

Taking risks is fun, but even risky kids need to think responsibly before jumping in. It’s about knowing your limits and following your gut … even if it means missing a possibly epic game of Scooter Jousting or Ping Pong in the Pasta.


Winter Kayaking


Most people think of kayaking as a warm weather activity, but have you ever tried winter kayaking?  Lisa tells us how … and why you’ll want to give it a go!

My friend Linda flew in from Michigan to kayak one weekend last year. We’d planned to do three different rivers in three days. With two rivers down and one to go, I asked Thomas if he would like to join us for Sunday’s paddle. He surprised me and said, “Yes!” I admit, I freaked. It was March in middle Tennessee and it was cold. The temperature had been hovering right about freezing. We’d had snow all for the two previous days. They were the beautiful delicate flakes that melted as soon as they hit the water. But still? He didn’t have the right gear and he had never paddled in the winter.

Linda looked at me and said, “Your son wants to go with us and we’re going to make it happen!” It pays to have risky friends!

We chose a closer river, pieced together the correct gear, arranged an early exit option for Thomas and packed lots of snacks.

In preparation, we told him what to do in case he flipped his kayak. Swim to the nearest shore, don’t worry about your boat, get out of the water and take off all of your wet clothes  (things we didn’t imagine saying when we signed up for motherhood).

We had the best paddle ever!

We practiced our stealth mode. This is useful for floating under low branches.


Thomas elected to do the entire paddle with us. He was a rockstar. There was no drama, no complaining, no tears. Just pure joy and pride. I am so grateful that Linda encouraged me to take Thomas with us.


We all made it safely to our take out spot. I got to spend the day sharing my passion with my son. I got to see him spend time in nature. He got to talk and paddle and be still and float. It was an amazing day.

Please remember that paddling in cold conditions is not only risky, it can be dangerous. Linda and I are experienced cold water paddlers. We dressed appropriately and packed for emergency situations. We both had cell phones in dry bags around our necks at all times. Depending on water and air temperatures, hypothermia can start with as little as fifteen minutes of exposure to the water.  If it’s something you’d like to try, don’t let these things stop you, but please be smart and find an experienced paddler to accompany you the first time.

While you definitely have to take different precautions to kayak in the winter, it’s worth the effort to experience nature in winter’s light.


Mommy Boot Camp


Roll, Thomas, Roll!

Our local YMCA has been offering boot camp for adults for a while now. They installed several torture devices in the field behind the YMCA. These include giant truck tires, chin up bars and what I can only assume are trash cans designed for puking. I’ve ridden by on my bike several times but have been afraid to stop.

Thomas and I were riding bikes the other day and he gave me the courage to stop by and try it out.

You are now entering Boot Camp: Mommy Style.

The first thing we did was chin ups. I held the chin up record at Bauer Elementary School for my entire 6th grade year. The school record, not just the record for the girls. Thomas can do one assisted chin up, which is pretty darn good. My goal is to get his upper body strength developed enough to do Trapeze School next summer.  He’ll make it, one chin up at a time!


If you can’t do a chin up, try just hanging from the bar. Pretend that you are on an episode of Survivor.

Then we rolled tires across the field. This was way harder than it looked. We couldn’t even lift the big tire, so we rolled the small one. It is actually kind of fun. I convinced Thomas to get in the tire and I rolled him. That was super fun.


We took a break and threw around the frisbee before we biked back home.

It was a good morning. We laughed, we exercised and we tried something new. Nobody puked, but I’ll admit, I was a little sore.


The Idle Parent Manifesto: We reject health and safety guidelines.

This is the eighteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We reject health and safety guidelines


First up, Lisa’s take on the subject:

I admit, I don’t always make my kids wear a helmet. When Thomas got his first two wheel bike, I bought the safety kit. We suited up with a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards. By the time I got all that on him, frankly, he was on to the next event. I wondered why Thomas had little interest in bike riding. It was Roger who clued me in to the fact that all the safety equipment was hindering Thomas’ interest in bike riding. Bit by bit, I let it go. If we are on a greenway, I let him ride without a helmet. Around the neighborhood, I let him ride without a helmet. If we are going to be on roads with lots of cars, I make him wear it. When we mountain bike, I always make him wear a helmet.


We skateboard and in-line skate. The skatepark requires a helmet and I abide by that rule. I have a healthy respect for skateboards. Those things are death wishes with wheels awesome. But for some reason, the longboard is ok without a helmet. I blame the Athleta catalogue.  This is just one example of how we toe the line when it comes to health and safety guidelines in our family.

And now for Angie’s two cents:

So this is a tricky one for me.  I am, by nature, a rule-follower.  Breaking the rules, whether they make sense or not, makes me nervous.  At the same time, I realize that I am this way because I’ve been conditioned for nearly 40 years to not trust my own judgement when it comes to my health and safety.  As the author points out:

The anxious parent, conditioned into living in fear by health and safety guidelines and worry-inducing media, is afraid of hammers and nails and drills and knives.  Our obsession with safety removes independent judgement from the individual.  It is disabling.

“You can’t be too careful these days.” Yes, you can be too careful!  We’ve allowed stories in the media that don’t happen that often to cloud our judgement of what is safe.

I do not want to raise kids who lack independent judgement.  I do not want to raise kids who go through life being too careful.

What I want more than anything is for us to look at situations and think about them critically before deciding, “Safe or unsafe?”  I want us to do this as parents, and I want us to do this with our kids.  I want my kids to be able to think independently for themselves and to weigh risk versus benefit, instead of blindly assuming that whatever The Experts have decided is the right choice.  I want them to stop and think – are these guidelines to protect me or to protect someone else from getting sued?  I want them to ask themselves, “Do these rules make sense?”  I want them to feel comfortable challenging us on why we do something, and I want to feel comfortable listening to them. I want to be secure enough in my authority to change my mind if they make valid points.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Are there health and safety guidelines you reject because they don’t make sense for your family?  Or do you feel like that’s something none of us should mess around with?


Risky Places We Love: Treetop Adventure Park

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville

Benjamin was at camp a this past summer at Tap Root Farm. (He had a blast.) This left Thomas and I both with a day off toget, so I told him that he could plan our day (had I planned it, he would have been in a kayak). He picked ziplining. I had been wanting to try out a new zipline in our town, so off we went. You have to be seven to participate so having Benjamin in camp worked perfectly.

It was a hot day with a chance of thunderstorms but we decided to risk it. We got lucky and had a nice breeze and no rain.

There are three courses available at Treetop Adventure Park – an adult course (ages 12+), a junior course (ages 9-11 with an adult), and a children’s course (ages 7-11, kids only).  We tried the juniors course. It is really more of a ropes course with ziplines in between each adventure challenge.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville

We got to wear a harness and sign a waiver, so I was ok with the lack of hardcore ziplines.

The cool part was that once we climbed up the first ladder, we were basically in the treetops for the rest of the time.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville. Juniors Course

We had fun! There were a ton of wooden bridges that we had to cross, each with it’s own challenge.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville. Juniors Course

I felt like Indiana Jones.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville. Zipline

The short ziplines in between the adventure bridges.

At the end were two really long ziplines. We almost missed them, so don’t forget to ask about these.

This tour is not for those who are afraid of heights. Even Thomas didn’t like crawling through the suspended barrels.  There are age, height and weight restrictions so be sure to check the website before you book your tour at Treetop Adventure Park.  If you’re good with all of that, then Treetop Adventures is a great way to bond with your older risky kids!


The Idle Parent: We Fill the House with Music & Merriment

This is the seventeenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We Fill the House with Music and Merriment

iPad Music Station for Families

I grew up in a very quiet house – you could literally hear a pin drop in my childhood home. My mother didn’t like noise, so we never had music playing or the TV on for background noise. That all changed when I got my own house.

I asked Roger for a CD player for the kitchen. Thank God  he’s technologically savvy. He put together this set up with YouTube and Pandora so we can play any song we want. And do we! We crank the tunes. I’ve found it makes cooking and cleaning better. It also drowns out crying and tantrums – the more you complain, the louder the volume. It works great around here. Music makes everything better, I’ve found. We dance, we sing, we fight over who gets to pick the songs … but everyone smiles.

Making meals fun with kids

We’ve got Music covered, but how about Merriment? I don’t know about your house, but at my house mealtimes can be a real drag, the very opposite of merry. No one sits still, milk gets spilled and suddenly everyone’s a food critic. I have a few tips to combat this problem.

1. Read Aloud

This makes eating hard, but the kids will sit still if I read them a story. A few of our favorites have been Charlotte’s Web, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and How to Eat Fried Worms.

2. Play Games

We have Rock, Paper, Scissors Dice, tops, a hangman book and Legos on the table. It gets messy and rowdy but I’ve found the kids complain less about the food if their mind is focused on something else.

3. Draw

We’ve been known to cover the kitchen table in butcher paper and give out crayons so that the kids can draw while they eat. It’s disgusting after about 2 meals and has been known to cause paper cuts, but the kids love it.

Settlers of Catan

I bought this coffee table off the internet. It really belongs in a fraternity house, but every now and then I go function over form. It has four chairs that fit under it and it’s perfect for board games. We try to leave a game or puzzle out on the coffee table at all times. Our current favorite is The Settlers of CatanGoodbye Candyland and Chutes and Ladders! Catan is fun for the entire family and won’t drive you to drink.

One of the points the Idle Parent author makes is to warn those of us with small kids not to be perfectionists when it comes to your home interior.  Save your sanity and money. He suggests you “give up on creating the ideal home and instead embrace the idle home.”

If you fill you house with fun things to do, kids will flock to it. Sometimes it gets loud and messy. We’ve skateboarded in the kitchen, we’ve spent hours throwing Webkins at each other and we’ve even ridden tricycles down the hallway. My walls have handprints on them and my floors are scratched but I consider these battle-scars. The day will come when these kids leave.  I will hire a contractor and erase the damage – but never the memories.




One, Two, Three, Blow! Easy Activities for the End of Summer Blues


Sometimes we get a little bored around here.  And sometimes, I manage to channel that boredom into something fun.  Not always risky, but still fun.

Near the end of summer break we found ourselves with a rainy afternoon and a desperate need for something to do. In the beginning of summer break it’s easy to get motivated to conquer boredom with grand plans and activities.  I don’t know about you, but this is not so much the case at the end of summer break.  I needed something easy, thoughtless, but fun.  So I gathered up some easy-to-acquire supplies and rounded up the neighborhood kids.


I saw this at camp once, and was pretty sure that I could do it.

We started with Red Solo Cup Races.  All you need is a flat surface, two red solo cups and some straws. You give two kids their own cup and straw and tell them to blow thru the straw and move the cup to the opposite side of the table. The first cup to cross the edge without going over wins.



I liked this because I got to yell, “On your mark, get set, BLOW!”

Then we moved on to an Oreo Eating Contest. Each kid got an Oreo and placed it on his eye. You have to get it to your mouth without using your hands.


This doesn’t seem risky until you watch your kid eat an Oreo off of the garage floor.  Way to build your immune system, Benjamin.

For the grand finale, we had the Cheese Poof  Toss. This was my personal favorite. You select one lucky child, put a shower cap on her, cover her head with shaving cream and then hand cheese poofs to the rest of the kids. They stand in a circle and toss the cheese poofs at her head … and they stick!


I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t even toss my cheese poofs.


A potentially disastrous day turned into an afternoon of fun, proof that you don’t always need elaborate crafts or activities to have a good time.  Sometimes you just need a shower cap and cheese poofs!


“I’m Gonna Need a Film Canister and Some Dry Ice.”


Thomas crawled into my bed the other night after a long day at camp and said, “Can you get me some dry ice and a couple of film canisters?” God, I love this kid. He had made rockets at Lego Camp that day and wanted to try it at home. Then he said, “Can we write about it on the blog?” Angels singing.

Here is what you will need:

1. Dry Ice

We got this at Publix super market.

2. Film Canisters

These are harder to come by. Thomas suggested that we look at our local antique store. (I am not even going to comment.) I called my friend Beth. She has everything.

3. Water

4. Construction paper rocket

The kids made these. They took a sheet of construction paper, cut it to size and rolled it up. They taped fins on the bottom. Then they slid it over the film canister.


How it all goes down:

Basically you put a small amount of dry ice and water in the film canister, shut the lid, attach the rocket and BOOM, off it goes. This sounds easy , but it isn’t. We never really got the hang of the timing and the actual amounts of dry ice and water. But, hey, this is an experiment, right? So just keep trying. The cap of the film canister does fly off with a good amount of force and it hurts when it hits you, so make sure that you stand back and don’t get hit in the eye.


Dry ice is risky. If you touch it with your bare hands, it will actually burn you. We used hot pads from the kitchen and winter gloves.


Here is Thomas showing off his rocket.


A rolling pin is useful for breaking the dry ice into small pieces.


After a while, we gave up on the rockets and just played with the dry ice. The kids had a great time and it was cheap entertainment. I loved it. Thanks, Thomas, for the idea.


The Idle Parent: Happy Mess is Better than Miserable Tidiness

This is the fifteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

For this topic, Lisa and I decided to give both out perspectives, since everyone’s definition of “mess” and “tidy,” along with how they feel about house cleaning, can be so drastically different.

Front Room

Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness.


I grew up in a miserable tidy house. Hubby Roger grew up in miserable mess. (Please note, I am referring to the cleanliness only.)

My mother prided herself on having a clean house and she succeeded. My friends said that our house looked like a museum. But my parents set up our basement with a pool table, air hockey, foosball and a hot tub. Kids flocked to our basement but I never remember hanging out in our formal living room.

Roger’s house was the exact opposite. His mother found other activities that made her happy besides cleaning.

It worked for both of them.

I continued to rule over a miserable tidy house until we had kids. Then it took ME about 8 years to find the middle ground. Roger likes things clean but he isn’t going to drive anyone crazy to achieve it. I on the other hand, HAVE AND WILL. After years of telling me to let it go! I finally figured it out. Here is how.

Do the bare minimum that still makes you happy and then cheat!

1. Tidy up before bedtime. Pick up toys, clean up the kitchen and get the coffee ready. Get everything organized so that mornings flow smoothly and are not a madhouse. It sets the tone for the day. I am convinced that this helps morning be our best time of the day.

2. Never leave a mess.I hate coming home to a messy house, so I tidy up before I leave. I never find time to come back and clean up, so I tidy up as I go. One mess at a time. I clean something up before I move on to the next mess.

3. Vacuum.

3. Get rid of clutter People also confuse clean with clutter-free. My friends tell me that I have a clean house. I have a clutter-free house. Try this. It works.

4. Make cleaning convenient.. Gritty floors drive me nuts, so I keep one vacuum upstairs and one downstairs. A ring around the toilet bowl freaks me out so I have cleaning supplies in all the bathrooms. If I have the tools ready, I am more likely to use them.

5. Keep the powder room clean.Think about it. There is only one room in your house where guest lock themselves in and sit down. Go in your powder room, lock the door and take a seat. Now clean it up.

6. Spend minimal time at home.The house doesn’t get dirty if you are outside playing.

7. Rally. This is what I call the first 15 minutes after we arrive home. Put everything away right then. There is never time to come back and clean things up.

I love it when someone walks into my house and says, “wow, it’s so clean.” If that makes you happy, these are great ways to get that response. Some of you out there don’t care and that is fine. What I think is important to all of us is that guests feel welcome and comfortable in our homes. They can have a good time regardless of the state of the house. It’s the feeling you get when you walk in a house that makes it a home – the feeling and the people.


I’ve never mentioned it here, but I work part-time at The Container Store.  Messy people don’t typically dream of working at The Container Store.  They don’t call it their “happy place.”  My husband is a lot like Lisa’s husband … he likes things picked up and the floors swept, but beyond that?  Well, let’s just say there’s only one of us that cleans the baseboards with a toothbrush … and it ain’t him.

He grew up with a very tidy mother.  I once saw her vacuum the curtains.  Even my neat freak self was flabbergasted. With one kid and a small house, I was able to maintain my tidy ways.  Once we added another kid and an additional floor to our home, it was another story.  Like Lisa, I realized I could drive everyone (myself included) crazy, or I could find a good enough middle ground. Here’s the thing for me:  I need cleanliness and order to feel happy in my home.  I need it in a way that nobody else I live with does.  It’s not fair for me to demand everyone else to live up to my admittedly high standards.  I actually enjoy doing housework – it soothes my soul.  On the other hand, it’s not fair for everyone else I live with to treat me like the maid.  And so we make concessions.  I clean the majority of the house to my standards because I’d be miserable if I didn’t.  Everyone else has what I like to think of as respectful obligations for peaceful living.  Things like:

  • making your bed.
  • putting your dirty clothes in the hamper.
  • putting your shoes on the shoe mat or in the mudroom, not wherever you feel like kicking them off.
  • picking up the messes you made.

I also have the kids clean their own bathroom.  I don’t care how much you like to clean, nobody likes cleaning someone else’s toilet. I have to remind myself that we live here … with children. There will be toys scattered about the house at times.  Things will get spilled, dirt will get tracked in on the floors, there will be fingerprints on the doors and windows.  In the not too distant future, I will have far fewer messes and more time on my hands to clean them up, and I will miss this happy, messy season.  Being miserably tidy is simply not worth sucking the joy out of a home that is well-lived in.

Where do you fall in the messy/tidy scale?  Do you have to have things tidy?  Do you struggle to keep house?  Does it matter to you?  


Night Biking: A Nighttime Adventure

Last summer I bought a new headlamp and was dying to try it out. What better way than to take an after dark bike ride? I took Thomas. He was nine at the time and he was scared. Apparently there was a very dangerous GoatMan at sleep away camp. After a few minutes of biking, he got over his fear and we had a blast.

We live on a greenway. Thomas and I have been riding these trails for about five years. We’re so familiar with them we could ride in our sleep. It’s nice to ride during the day, but man … are they fun after dark.


We stopped at the ball fields and ran the bases. Thomas insisted that we hit all four baseball diamonds. I retaliated by drenching him with my water bottle. He was unarmed. It felt so good.


It’s ok to be out after dark. We did it all the time as kids. Who didn’t love a good game of flashlight tag? Go ahead and hand out the flashlights and headlamps and then sit back and watch the fun.  Even better?  Join in yourself!

What are some of your family’s favorite nighttime adventures?