Archives for August 2012

How Do You Live Dangerously?

Elena skate park

Do you get the Title Nine catalog?  I’ve been a customer for many years, and even if I’m not planning to order anything, I’ve always enjoyed flipping through their catalogs.  What makes it different from, say … a Nordstrom catalog?  The models.  They use (in their words) “ordinary women doing extraordinary things.”  I love to see the women who look like me mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, slacklining.  While I might not ever try some of those things, it’s nice to imagine that if I really wanted to, I could.

And so I just had to smile when I opened up the latest catalog and read this from their founder on the inside cover:


Go ahead and eat it, even if it’s past the 5 second rule.

Skip the anti-bacterial soap and let your immune system do the fighting.

Skip the antibiotics … chances are it’s a virus.

Let your child work with knives.  The learning will astonish you both.

Take that job offer, even if, especially if, you think you are under-qualified.

Think it’s too steep?  One way to find out.

Yes, your son can walk to the store by himself.

And, your daughter should learn to build a good fire.

And even if you think you haven’t trained enough, do that race anyway.


Turns out, the Title Nine Girls are Risky Girls!  I absolutely love it, as it’s the exact spirit of thinking which inspired us to create The Risky Kids.

I’d love for us to add to the list, so tell me:  how do you live dangerously?


Risky Places We Love: Getting Lost on the Green River

Posted by Lisa A.

My dearest friend and her three kids came to visit us in Nashville last month. Her travel plans included a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. I suggested that my two kids and I meet up with them for a short kayak trip on the nearby Green River.

Green River

The Green River is named for the obvious green color which is a result of the depth and the lush tree lined banks. It’s a beautiful river.

Kayaking Gear

We had five kayaks for the adults and three big kids. We towed the two little kids in an inflatable boat. Because of the car situation we had to leave the big kids alone in the woods with bug spray, a Frisbee and no cell phone service (gasp!).  They survived just fine.

We had fun. We laughed when the little kids yelled, “butt massage,” as the bottom of their boat went over shallow sections with rough rocks. We argued over whether the furry creature eating a sapling on the shore was a woodchuck, a beaver or a muskrat.

The kids paddled like rock stars. It was one of those proud parenting moments. You’re familiar with that moment, right?  The one that comes right before the fall?

It started to get dark. The kids got hungry. The trail mix ran out. Linda and I did the math. We had gone at least five of the eight miles. We didn’t have enough daylight to finish this eight mile trip. We were gonna be on the river with five children after dark with no flashlights. We did what every good parent would do in this situation … we pulled out our cell phones. I’m not sure exactly how we thought that this would help but it seemed like the only option. Epic fail. We moved on with option two. Stay calm and keep paddling and paddling and paddling….

Our take out point was a ferry boat crossing. I’m pretty sure the kids broke out into the Hallelujah Chorus when we finally saw the headlights from the ferry boat.  Always paddle toward the light, kids.

The kids slept like bricks that night. I’ve never seen five children scramble to the breakfast table so fast and eat so well.

Rock Star Pancakes by Lisa A.


We were never in any serious danger, but being on a river after dark is risky. All of our kids had paddled kayaks before and we knew they would be just fine. It doesn’t hurt to miss a meal if there is an adventure and a good story that goes along with it. I keep telling myself that in the future when my children get into a risky situation they’ll know to stay calm and just keep paddling…



50 Dangerous Things: Stick Your Hand Out the Window

Stick Your Hand Out the Window

I had to chuckle when I came across this challenge, as this was one of those things that I specifically remember not being able to do as a child.  My parents were pretty laid back, but for some reason this was a freedom I wasn’t allowed.  I should ask them why, but as with most things related to complaints about my childhood, I simply get waved off with a “Bah. I don’t remember it that way.”  Perhaps it had something to do with an incident involving my older brother, who once got his head stuck out the car window while my dad unknowingly tried to crank it higher to no avail.  All I know is that the windows were almost always up, unless my dad was flicking his cigarette ash out of one.  Ahh, to have grown up in the late 70s/early 80s.

Task:  Experience aerodynamics and experiment with lift and drag by sticking your hand out of a car window while it’s in motion.


  • Moving vehicle (with open window)
  • Open road
Possible Hazards:  
  • Amputation
  • Broken Bones
To avoid these possible hazards, keep hands in on gravel roads.  Make sure (obviously) that your hand won’t hit anything (mailboxes, tree branches, other cars, etc.) when you stick it out the window.

How It All Went Down:


My kids laughed when I told them this was considered A Dangerous Thing.  We do this all the time. This particular time I made a point to talk about lift and drag.  Lift your hand up and down and feel the wind lift the weight of your arm.  What happens when you rotate your hand vertically and horizontally?  Spread your fingers out – does that change how easy or hard it is to lift your hand?  Is the wind stronger around certain parts of the window?  We spent a few minutes discussing, and then we just shut up and enjoyed the breeze and the sweet summer air.  Extra points if you can jam out to “Windows Are Rolled Down” by Amos Lee at the same time.

There are just some days that are meant for windows down and hands out, and these waning days of summer are no exception. You can’t just stick it out there, though, you have to do it with gusto.   So keep your head in and your hands out and you should be just fine.

Want more?  Read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

Trying Risky Things Risk-Free: The Hoosier Outdoor Experience

One of the most daunting things about trying to add a little risk and adventure into your family life is figuring out how to do something you’ve never done before.  Especially for those of us who weren’t raised this way, or who aren’t inherently risk-takers, tackling something like canoeing, mountain biking or camping with zero experience can be overwhelming.  And chances are, if you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where or how to begin, you probably won’t try that risky thing at all.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just try it once, with someone to guide you along?

If you’re local to Indianapolis, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has just the thing for you.  On Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16, the DNR is hosting their annual Hoosier Outdoor Experience at Fort Harrison State Park.  Featuring over 50 different outdoor (and potentially risky!) activities and more than 120 grassroots partners, the Outdoor Experience is an excellent way to try your hand at some really cool activities, such as fishing, canoeing, kayaking, animal trapping, woodcarving, archery, horseback riding, geocaching, mountain biking, rock climbing and so much more.

Mike took the kids last year while I was out of town and they had the time of their lives.  They’re still talking about it, nearly a year later.  The very best part?  It’s all free.  To help with planning, the organizers do ask you to register beforehand.  You can learn more and get your family registered on the Indiana DNR website.

We hope to see you there!


So Fresh and So Clean

Just in time for back-to-school, The Risky Kids is sporting a fresh new look!  If you subscribe to us via email or a reader, we’d love for you to click over to the website and have a look.  We love our new design and hope you’ll find it a little easier to navigate. Many, many thanks to Creative Kristi for her work.  She took everything I told her I wanted for the site and magically gave it the look and feel I imagined but knew I could never do on my own (well, not without a lot of swearing and a few mental breakdowns on my part anyhow – and it still wouldn’t look this good).  If you need any blog design work done, I highly recommend Kristi.  Let me know what you think!


Just A Swingin’

I have this friend, Mike, who is a stay-at-home dad/engineer. He was dropping his kids off to play one day and I noticed that he was in the backyard staring at my trees. He looked at me and said, “This yard needs a tree swing.” We immediately started negotiating location, materials and the use of power tools.

We made the seat out of a piece of scrap wood. I let The Benj use the hand sander and we added a lot of stain and polyurethane.


I know I’m biased, but you have to admit, it turned out beautiful.

Installation went great. There was minimal blood, I only almost lost a toe and I managed to get stuck in a tree. Mike wanted to attach the rope to a hammer and throw it over the tree limb. I vetoed that idea – mainly because I didn’t feel like driving to the ER.

Building a tree swing
Even better, I got to climb on this bad boy. Thirty-two feet, baby!

We are now the proud owners of the best tree swing on the planet. The neighborhood kids are lining up to use it. Siblings are actually pushing each other on the swing instead of fighting. If you’ve never been on a tree swing, you have to try it. It’s like flying and gliding all mixed into one and it feels fantastic.

Tree Swing


If You Explode It, They Will Have Fun: The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment

Soda & Mentos Explosion

My kids are always up for any kind of scientific experiment.  If it involves mixing up some kind of concoction or tearing something apart in the name of science, they’re game.  I’m a scientist at heart myself.  My major in college was microbiology and I spent many an hour looking at blood cells under a microscope and culturing all kinds of yeast and bacteria.  Call me a dork, but my heart flutters a bit when I see a petri dish or a pipette.

While microbes are my cup of tea (not to drink, of course), explosions are my kids favorite scientific endeavor.  Mostly it’s just them dreaming about exploding things, as their mother is just about as crazy about tidiness as she is about science.  Explosions in the house, as educational as they might be, don’t sound so fun to clean up.

We received Ken Denmead’s third book in the Geek Dad series, The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, to review.  It didn’t take long for Elena to bookmark about every other experiment to try at home.  While we want to get to as many of them as we can, it was “Exploring Fluid Dynamics” that caught my eye right away.  Perhaps you know this experiment by another name: the Diet Coke and Mentos trick.

It had candy, it had explosions, it had mess that could be easily hosed away. Sold, sold, sold.

The book is awesome at giving you both detailed instructions and yet giving kids lots of chances to form a hypothesis of their own and add on to the basic experiments.  In this case, the author encourages kids to think about what factors go into making the biggest, best explosion.  Is it the kind of soda?  Is it the size and shape of the bottle?  Is it the kind of candy?

Since we were doing this mostly for our own entertainment and not for an actual project, we kept our experiment small.  At the store I let the kids pick 4 kinds of soda: classic diet, regular soda, and orange soda.  We also tried it using an already opened, small bottle of clear soda.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

The book gives very detailed instructions on making a candy-delivering device out of PVC pipe.  This is to give you a way to drop the candy in and give yourself time to run away.  We came up with our own simple delivery system using rolled-up cardstock with a slit cut in it.  We slid another piece of card stock in the slit to hold the candy in place until we were ready.  It worked like a charm.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

For less than $4 and relatively little work, we had an awesome afternoon of explosions.  Even I, the jaded scientist, was impressed.  We had an interesting conversation about how soda is made and what causes the reaction and all that educational stuff, but most importantly?  We had a lot of fun.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

This book is definitely geared toward elementary-age kids and older.  Whether you have a science fair coming up in which your budding scientist could use a little inspiration to try something more creative than a potato clock, you’re a homeschooling family looking for something different to add to your science curriculum, or you just want to have some geeky, science-themed fun, you’re sure to find something really cool in this book.