Archives for September 2012

Panic First, Think Later: What Are We Teaching Our Kids About Strangers?

We live in a fairly affluent suburb of Indianapolis.  It’s clean, the schools are good, the neighborhoods are nice.  It’s your typical suburban town, really.  And like much of suburbia, it doesn’t take much for fear to burst our proverbial bubble.

We started and ended the summer with two very different news stories that became all-consuming for parents.  In one story the danger came from outside, in another the danger was parenting itself.  One involves people preying on kids while they play, the other involves leaving children unattended in cars.  I’ll discuss the kids in cars issue in another post, but today I’d like to examine kids and strangers in more depth.

My older daughter attends public school, so we automatically are forwarded any emails or press releases from the local police department that involve school-age children.  Near the end of the school year, my inbox saw several press releases concerning incidents of local children being approached by men they did not know.  The incidents were fairly similar, though the suspects were not.  Kids are playing in their front yards, stranger approaches children by car or on foot.  Stranger attempts to communicate with children, children run inside and report incident to parents.  Parents notify police.

It didn’t take long for fear to spread through our little community.  I heard from many parents that they weren’t letting their children play outside without direct adult supervision any longer.  The father of a daughter the same age as Elena walked her over one afternoon, and asked me to walk her home, because of “all the creeps out there.” They live 2 houses away, and we can see their house from our back door.

I’ll admit that by the 3rd press release in less than 2 weeks, a part of me was feeling panicked, too.  All the occurrances happened in neighborhoods just like mine, not far from mine.  I let my kids play outside without direct supervision all the time.  We’ve given Elena a tremendous amount of freedom in our neighborhood, both because we trust her and we feel it’s important to her development.  And still, as much as I knew how things can get blown out of proportion, for the first time I found myself wondering if it was really okay to parent the way we do.

Mike and I talked and we decided not to change our rules, but to have a discussion with the kids about the events and review what they should do in situations involving strangers.  The goal wasn’t to scare them, but to remind them to be aware of their surroundings.

And then, a very different press release came through.  One which detailed that one of the incidents wasn’t really an incident at all.  In this particular police report, a gentlemen in a jeep with a dog approached 9- and 10-year old siblings, asking if they want to pet his dog.  The children immediately went inside and reported the incident to their mother.  From the press release:

Investigators spoke with neighbors, family members and the driver.  Information obtained during these interviews confirmed that, at the time of this incident, the driver had no criminal intent.  The driver told investigators that he was only being friendly and did not realize the possible negative perception of his actions.

Now, I know there are many of you who will still call foul.  You’re suspicious of him anyway, and maybe think he pulled a fast one.  And maybe that’s true.

But I also have to sympathize with him.  Because for every creep out there, and I don’t deny there are  terrible people out there who prey on children, there are many more men who can be trusted with our children.  They can walk down the sidewalk and let kids pet their dog without wanting to molest them.  They can say hi and wave, or have a conversation over a fence and not intend to kidnap our kids and hide them in the basement.  They can be caring teachers, coaches or mentors.

Did the kids do the right thing?  Absolutely.  I would never encourage my kids not to remove themselves from a situation that felt uncomfortable to them, or not to share it with me.  Is the guy a little naive?  Yes.  Right or wrong, he has to realize that people are automatically going to assume the worst when it comes to men and children.  But before we jump to conclusions and involve the police, is it too much to ask to do a little thinking on our own?  I know my kids, and if they saw someone with a big dog in a jeep they would point and make a big deal out of it.  They love dogs.  Maybe the guy is a dad himself, or has grandkids, and knows this as well.  Maybe he’s just being nice, sees the kids’ interest in the dog, and tries to be friendly.  Before we jump to conclusions, can we talk to our neighbors?  Can we talk to him?  Can we observe before making snap judgements?

Yes, we have to be smart.  We have to have honest conversations with our kids about not only strangers, but people we know that may want to do them harm.  We have to pay attention.  But we do not have to live in fear and paranoia, painting every male we see with the broad brush of potential predator.  If we teach our kids they can’t trust anyone, they will never develop the intuition they need to tell them when someone really does have bad intentions.

Let’s all take a deep breath and take the time to evaluate what’s going on around us.  Let’s rely on common sense first, before we lose the ability to use common sense altogether.


When Squirrels Fly

Baby squirrels

My kids love animals. We have a dog and a half (I’ll explain another time) and two fish. We are ok pet owners but there just isn’t enough time and space for any more pets. I try to make up for that by letting the kids pet sit from time to time. We’ve watched the usual, fish, cats, dogs and crabs. The unusual, sugar glider and duck. Which brings us to our newest set of visitors.


Yes, I said it, we have three squirrels living in a shoebox in our house. Please don’t tell my mother.

Here is the story. We were having a delightful afternoon at a pool party when all of the sudden there was some commotion in a tree behind us and a very loud squeal. We noticed that the dog had something rodent-like in her mouth. The next thing I know Hubby Roger is holding up what appears to be a baby squirrel. We found the other two siblings close by. They fell about 20 feet out of the nest. I am a little baffled that they not only survived the fall but did not get eaten by the dog. These guys are tough. We watched them for the next few hours hoping that the mother would gather them up and return them to the nest but she never came back.

I was torn. Sometimes you need to let nature take its course. But seriously, raising three baby squirrels? How fun is that? I poled the kids and it was unanimous, we were the proud surrogate family for Free-Fall, Screech and Plummet.

Thank God for the internet. Hubby Roger printed this manual and Thomas hunkered down and read it during dinner. He’s an expert now.

Raising infant tree squirrels

They had a pretty good set up. Heat, a cozy bed and all the Gator-Aide they could drink. Where the heck do they get that in the wild? The plan was to keep them alive long enough to deliver them to a wildlife rehab center.

Feeding baby squirrels


Last Thursday, I enlisted the help of my friend, Beth, to deliver these three babies to Walden’s Puddle. This place was fantastic. They take in abandon and injured animals and rehabilitate the ones they can and use the others as educational animals.

I would like to stress that wild animals should never be kept as pets. The volunteers at Walden’s Puddle also told me that a wild animal will return for her babies even after they have been held or cared for by a human. My kids definitely learned something from the experience.  “Worst-first” thinking dictates that we would leave the baby squirrels to fend for themselves, for fear of getting bitten or contracting some horrible disease.  Instead we made our best effort to care for and try to return the squirrels to their mother.  Unfortunately, we had no luck and we are grateful for places like Walden’s Puddle.

Have you or your kids ever had an experience with wild animals, baby or otherwise?  


The Inaugural Risky Summit

trapeze school

Lisa: This looks like fun!

Angie: This scares the crap out of me.


Lisa: This scares the crap out of me.

Angie: This looks like fun!

Lisa: When Angie asked me to join her in writing The Risky Kids, I was excited.  I thought it would give me a good excuse to pack up the kids and try new things.  Lick a battery? Sure!  Operate a computer?  Not so much.  Technology hates me. Computers freeze up and die when I walk in the room.

Angie: This is absolutely true.  I’d tell Lisa, “Oh, this is easy, let me show you.”  And then her computer would proceed to do things no computer has ever done before.

Lisa: Angie assured me that she could teach me the technical side of blogging.  And so the first Risky Kids Summit was born. We planned to meet in Louisville and discuss all things blog related: how to use the website, set goals, discuss future posts …

mega cavern megazip louisville

But let’s be honest,  I really just wanted an excuse to try out MegaCaverns.

Angie: I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  Thankfully I didn’t fall and die zip-lining 80 feet underground in the dark.

Lisa:  It also might have been an excuse to drink beer at Bluegrass Brewing Company.

Angie: Now we’re talkin’.

Graeter's Ice Cream

Lisa: And eat ice cream at Graeter’s.

Angie: You are my soul mate.  But I draw the line at sky diving.

Lisa: Being Risky is also about being balanced. We did our work and played too. I learned a lot during the Risky Kids Summit. We want our blog to grow and encourage other families to get out there and try new things. If there’s something that you would like to see on our blog, go ahead and give us a shout out.

Angie: For once, I will let Lisa have the last word … oh, wait.   Well, yeah.  What she said.  We want to make sure we’ve got you covered.  If you have a question or a topic you’d like to see us write about let us know in the comments.  And don’t forget, we’re available for public appearances.  All we require is beer, ice cream and one activity suitable for an adrenaline junkie.


5 Tips for Kayaking with Kids

Kayaking with kids

Hubby Roger bought me kayaks for my birthday this year. It was love at first sight. Kayaking combines a lot of my favorite activities. I especially like exercise that masks itself as fun.

Roger was less than enamored. He doesn’t mind kayaking but he isn’t going to do it all the time. I quickly realized that I wasn’t always going to have another adult around who was available for kayak trips so I needed to be able to take the kids alone.

It scared me at first. It can be risky. Water levels rise, weather rolls in and rivers change quickly.

I didn’t want to give up my new favorite sport so I devised a plan to take the kids by myself. Here are my 5 tips on kayaking with kids:

1. Know your river.

I always scout the river before I take the kids. We have several rivers that are extremely shallow during most of the summer. They are located in populated areas and are fairly free of obstacles. The rivers flow well and really only take about an hour on the water.

Kayaking with kids

2. Know your kids.

We started by taking the kayaks to our neighborhood swimming pool and then to the lake to let the kids experiment. Can you stand up in your kayak? How far can you lean over before you tip? How long does it take for your kayak to fill with water and sink? Can you use the bilge pump to soak your little brother? This build skills and confidence. It also lets you see which kids you can take alone and which kids will require backup.

3. Invest in a dry bag for your phone.

They make pouches for your phone that you can wear around your neck. The phone stays dry and you can dial without removing it from the pouch. Plus you can take pictures without having to worry about dropping the phone in the river.

4. Get good ground support.

I always shoot a responsible adult a text message when we put it. Then they know to come looking for us if we go all Gilligan’s Island. If I take your kids kayaking, I usually make you meet up with us at take out and drive us back to the truck so that we can load up the equipment.

5. Tow

Benjamin spent most of his early childhood in a bike trailer so when we got the kayaks it seemed only natural to purchase a small inflatable boat and tow it behind my kayak. He loves it. He gets a snack and a water gun and he’s good. I also tied lines onto the front of all the kayaks so that if an older child gets tired, I can tow him too. It adds to your workout, but you get used to it. My shining moment was when Thomas hooked another tired child to his boat and towed her.

Towing kids on kayaks

The kids are becoming great paddlers. They get stronger and more confident with each trip. We do a lot of trial and error on the river and each paddle is a new adventure. So yak up and get out there.

Have any questions about kayaking with kids or how to even get started? Leave me a comment – I’d love to help!


Worldwide Recess Day – Take 10!

This Friday, September 14 is Worldwide Recess Day.  Just because you don’t sit at a tiny desk and pack your peanut butter sandwiches in a paper bag anymore doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a little play in your day.

To celebrate the need for play in everyone’s day, young and old, KEEN is encouraging everyone to take 10 minutes out of your day on Friday for your own version of recess.  Take the kids outside for the old-fashioned 4-Square that doesn’t require a phone.  Or challenge your co-workers to 10 minutes of dodge ball … loser has to buy lunch.  While you’re out having fun, snap a photo of your recess shenanigans and upload it to Instagram or Twitter with the tag #TAKE10.  Someone will win a pair of KEENs every hour.

Recess is back!


Risky Pins: The Poll Edition

Enquiring minds (okay, maybe just mine) want to know: do you enjoy the Pinterest posts?  Do you prefer posts with a round-up of links I find interesting instead?  Or a combo of the two?  If you could be so kind and vote below, I’d appreciate it!

[polldaddy poll=”6527085″]


And now on to regularly scheduled Pinterest content!  Pinned anything risky lately?  Add a link in the comments to your pin!  And be sure to follow us on Pinterest – we’re theriskykids.  The more the merrier (and riskier!)

Follow Me on Pinterest

Did you ever use a baseball card on your bike spokes to make it sound like a motorbike?  In case you’ve forgotten how or –gasp!– never got to do so, here’s an easy tutorial (I love the Strider bike, too!).

Source: Toddler Approved via The Risky Kids via Pinterest

The LEGO Ninjago series has turned Eli into one ninja-obsessed little boy.  Here’s a fun way to indulge an obsession in ninja weapons without fearing for your life.

Source: All For The Boys via The Risky Kids via Pinterest

Something to think about:

Source: minna may via The Risky Kids via Pinterest

While this could be applied in all kinds of life situations, I love how it applies to parenting and play.  If we, as parents, can push past the “worst first” thinking that plagues us all (You’ll fall!  You’ll break a bone!  Someone will kidnap you!) and get to the place where we can see the good that comes from challenging situations, awesome things can happen.


Risky Moms ≠ Risky Kids (and Vice Versa)

I am thrilled to be an official member of the Risky Kids Blog. I do have a confession to make, though: I don’t live in a risky family. My kids are content to spend the day sitting in front of the computer. Not me. I wanna be going Mach Five with my hair on fire. I love speed. I love to feel the wind on my face. I love water and being outside and being upside down. I am not afraid of heights. I am the first to yell, “I’m in.”

Kayak headstand

Once I get my kids off the couch, they have a great time. They can be risky, I just have to be the ringleader. My kids are strong, coordinated and they are quickly learning their limits. They aren’t afraid to push the envelope but sometimes they have to be nudged or bribed … or threatened to be mocked relentlessly.

Cliff jumping Thomas
Please note that Thomas was not pushed off the cliff, he jumped all by himself.

Angie’s family is the opposite. The kids are risky and constantly taking mom to the edge.  (Note from Angie:  This is a true story.  I have never, not once in my life yelled, “I’m in!”  Unless it’s in reference to eating, of course.  The grey hairs I have are a direct result of the numerous risky things my kids love to do.  Thankfully I’ve had the good sense to say a little prayer and let the kids be kids.  And faithfully pay our insurance premiums.)

The good news is that we have combined forces and now we will be able to help both kinds of families. We’ve decided that a good balance is probably what has allowed us all to survive this far.

I’m≠ hoping to swap kids with the Six family for a weekend. Eli, Elena and I could tear it up while Thomas, The Benj and Angie sip cold drinks and surf the Internet.  (Note from Angie:  Lisa, this is your BEST idea yet. I’m in!)

Who else is in?  We want to know about your family.  Are you the risk taker, dragging your kids who would rather sit in the air conditioning along?  Or do your kids force you to stretch out of your comfort zone?


Idle Parent Manifesto: Reject the Inner Puritan

This is the sixth 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 the inner Puritan.

Want to know why it’s taken Lisa and I awhile to get to another Idle Parent post?  Because we just couldn’t figure out what to do with this topic.  Maybe it’s because we both possess personalities and parenting styles that are so far removed from Puritanical beliefs.  Maybe it’s because we don’t remember much about Puritans from our high school history classes.  I think Lisa sums it up best:

“I’ve never met a Puritan but from what I remember from history class, they didn’t really seem to have a lot of fun. They were good alright, but I don’t think that they got a lot of repeat party invitations.”

To reject your inner Puritan, you first need to summarize what tenets of Puritan beliefs might apply to parenthood.  The basic tenet of American Puritanism is a belief that godly people were sober, hardworking and responsible.  Nothing wrong with that right?

I believe what the author is trying to get across to us as parents, though, is that there can be a belief that if we aren’t serious and on top of things all the time, somehow we’re failures as parents.

I don’t think Puritans had a lot of idle time themselves, and when they did, I’m pretty sure it was spent on self-reflection with good measure of Bible study thrown in.  Again, nothing wrong with a strong work ethic and a good knowledge of your faith.  I don’t know about you, though, but I need a little idle time and I need it to include some reflection on the latest issue of People magazine.

On top of this inner voice that tells you down time be damned, is that voice’s friend, which tells you that it’s cool to be a martyr to parenting.  Yes, you can be sober, hardworking and responsible all the time.  Let’s see if you get any repeat party invitations.  And let’s see if you can uphold those standards and live a life that includes a joyful relationship with your partner and anxiety-free kids.  My hunch is that, if you do, you’re going to spend a lot of your time angry with others who know that it’s okay to take time for themselves.

We all have our moments.  My inner Puritan comes out when I see Mike taking time out to lie on the couch and watch TV while there are perfectly dirty dishes waiting to be washed.  It also comes out when my kids are happily running about in pajama tops, mismatched pants and unbrushed hair, next to perfectly combed and put-together kids.  My inner Puritan comes out and puts her judgy pants on.

The good Puritan thing to do would be to take the opportunity during those moments to scold, to nag, to do whatever we can to rectify the situation and make ourselves appear to be good and responsible.  The better thing, for you and everyone who has to live with you, would be to take a deep breath and let it go.

So tell us, what makes your inner Puritan come out to scold?