Archives for November 2012

Risky Activities We Love


Roger: “Hey, Lisa, wanna jump out of a perfectly good plane at 13,900 feet while strapped to another person and hope the parachute opens?”

Lisa: “Sure!”

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Wait, don’t answer that.

Roger has always wanted to go skydiving. I was the stick in the mud. It’s too dangerous. They’ll revoke your life insurance….

We went to a party a few months ago and I overheard the host talking to Roger about skydiving. Roger’s face lit up. I decided to change my mind and jump. We had an anniversary coming up and I couldn’t think of a better present.

The verdict? Totally worth it!

We hooked up with Tennessee Skydiving. They were awesome. We took a short class, suited up and hopped on the plane. You have to jump tandem for your first jump. Nothing like having a former Special Forces hooked to your back.

The plane ride was cool. We were packed in there like sardines, all sitting on our behinds straddling the person in front of us. At some weird point that I am sure can be explained by physics, everyone in the plane levitates and ends up standing up. Then two by two we tossed ourselves out of the plane.

You get about 55 seconds of free fall. That part happens pretty fast. All of the sudden the parachute opens and there I was hanging way up high, just floating. It was probably the most peaceful place ever: no wind, no bugs, no birds, no planes. I couldn’t see any of the other skydivers. It didn’t feel like I was moving at all. I could see for miles. It was cool. Really cool.

My tandem partner showed me how to steer the parachute. We turned into the wind and then you could really feel the breeze.

We floated back to solid ground and landed on our feet. We both arrived safe and sound. We had the option of video and still photos but being the Thrifty Parents that we are, we decided to just savor the moment and opt out of photos.

Would we do it again? Yes!

PS. The absolute scariest part of the adventure occurred when we returned home. We turned onto our street and there was an ambulance and a firetruck at the end of our cul de sac. I knew that it wasn’t one of our kids because the babysitter hadn’t texted me but you know that pit in your stomach feeling? I had it. Luckily, it was a neighbor with a kidney stone and everyone is A-OK. I’m sure the neighbor would have chosen skydiving over a kidney stone, but hey, you don’t always get to pick. It did remind me that sometimes home is the most dangerous place of all and it isn’t always the risky activity that sends you straight to the hospital.


You Can’t Do That On The Front Lawn


Sometimes being a RiskyKid isn’t about doing anything risky at all; sometimes it’s about just doing something that is a lot of fun.

My kids love silly string. It makes a huge mess. The neighbor claims that it’s bad for the wildlife in the neighborhood. Shaving cream is expensive and burns your eyes. So I thought about it and came up with a great idea. Whip Cream fight! Since RiskyKids are also thrifty, I asked my friend, Heather, to pick up some whipped cream at Aldi’s. $1.49 a can. I told her to get twelve. You can never have too much.

I collected the neighborhood kids and explained the rules.
-We each get one can.
-You may not spray or be sprayed while on base.
-No hitting each other with cans.

How often do you get to say, “Shake your cans kids?”

It took longer to round up the neighborhood kids than it did to have the fight. But they loved it.

There was one casualty. I split my thumb open. It’s all fun and games till someone needs a band-aid. (I didn’t cry)


50 Dangerous Things: SuperGlue Your Fingers Together, Take 2

superglue your fingers together

Meet Emily. She’s a RiskyKid. She let me superglue her fingers together today. Her exact words were, “How do you come up with all this awesome stuff to do?” Funny you should ask, Emily. It’s a combination of boredom, books, the internet and the amazing Mrs. Six.

To be fair, I superglued my own fingers and Thomas’ fingers together. I glued Thomas’ fingers six times. The kid has a hidden superpower that makes superglue useless on him. His fingers came apart within seconds. I figured there must be dirt or oil on his fingers. I made him wash his hands, same result. From now on, he will be the official supergluer in the family. My fingers were stuck together for three and and a half hours.

superglue your fingers together

Things that you can do with your fingers stuck together.
~Eat carmel apples
~Pump up bike tires
~Crash on your bike
~Eat pizza
~Develop new dance moves

Things that are really hard to do with your fingers stuck together.
~Order pizza
~Use the break on your bike

The kids had fun. I do think that we are all glad that the superglue doesn’t last forever and just to be on the safe side, I hid the superglue.


Risky Reads: Punkin’ Chunkin’ Edition

Pumpkin Catapult

Hope you had a wonderful Halloween!  This was the first year we let Elena, who is 10, trick-or-treat without a parent.  It helps when her friends’ parents have the same philosophy on giving kids independence.  They had a blast and she came home with a pillowcase full of candy.  Check out this pumpkin catapult we got to try at our local Headless Horseman event. SO much fun.  While we can’t launch pumpkins at home, I’m going to let the kids smash their jack-o-lanterns this weekend.  If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 10  years as a parent, it’s that kids love to destroy things!  Here are a few things I found around the web last month I thought you might enjoy:

One of our playgroup friends had a marshmallow shooter and I thought Eli might lose his mind.  It was hilarious to watch the shooter and the other kids interact – like the preschool version of shooting t-shirts into a stadium crowd.  Here’s a cool tutorial on how to make your own marshmallow shooter– what a great Christmas gift!

My friend Jen (mother of quadruplet boys!) did a cool series last month on 31 Days of Simple Outdoor Adventures for Boys.  There’s so much great risky inspiration there, but I especially loved this one on making your own fishing pole.

Active for Life is an amazing resource year round, but it’s especially helpful if you need ideas for indoor activities to keep your kids moving.  Balloon juggling perhaps?

As you make notes over the winter about summer camps your kids might enjoy, why not scrap basketball camp for hacking camp?

If you’d like to keep up with us around the web, be sure to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Pinterest!



The Idle Parent: An Idle Parent is a Thrifty Parent

This is the eighth 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.

An idle parent is a thrifty parent.

Parenthood is priceless, but children are expensive.  According the Wall Street Journal, it will take the average parent $300,000 to raise a child from birth to age 17.  But how much will it cost an Idle Parent?

An Idle Parent strives to raise an anti-consumerist child.  If you’re an anti-consumer, your expenses are less, which puts less pressure on parents to work crazy hours/jobs to bring in more income, which leaves more time to be idle, which means MORE FUN.  That’s how we see it, anyways.  There are hundreds of ways to be more frugal, many of which are decidedly NOT FUN.  For every family what that means is very different.  Spend time thinking about what means the most to you and what has become a burden.  Don’t be afraid to let the burdens (expensive vacations, memberships you rarely use, the latest accessory or toy, etc) go and live a life that has joy, purpose and fits your family.  Do less. Disconnect more. Have fun.

You do what works for you, but if you need some inspiration here are 10 ways the Risky Parents are thrifty parents:

1. Stay Home

How many times do we drag the kids around to places we think they should like/appreciate, only to find them bored and us $50 poorer?  Never underestimate the value of down time and the freedom to have some days obligation/outing free.

2. The Mall is Not an Outing

We can be guilty of this, especially in the dead of winter. We’re bored and have a deadly case of cabin fever.  What to do?  Go to Target!  It sounds like a fun diversion, until the melt-down in the Lego aisle when “We’re just looking!” has long lost its appeal.  Listen, I can’t go to Starbucks just to smell the coffee and enjoy the free Wi-Fi.  Don’t expect your kids to enjoy the mall without dropping some cash.

3. Cut the Screens

Cutting screen time cuts the amount of time kids are exposed to advertisements.  It’s hard to want what you don’t even know exists.

4. Pare Down Toys

Maybe it’s because we don’t have a bonus room or basement, but we have significantly less toys than many of our friends.  It’s easy to feel self-conscious when others come over, and at times I’ve worried  the kids’ friends will be bored. But you know what happens?  It’s the opposite.  Because you can see exactly what we have, the kids can always find something to play with and they aren’t overwhelmed by too many choices.

If you have too many toys, it’s an easy fix.  Observe what your kids play with most for a week or two.  Remove toys they don’t play with and store them in an accesible location (we put them in a plastic tote in the garage).  Swap the toys you left out with the ones you put up in a month or two. If they’re still not into them let them go.  Swapping toys with friends is a great idea, too.  Let your kid play with something until they’re sick of it and then send it back or pay it forward.

5. Wear Hand-Me-Downs

Lisa has the good fortune of having two boys who are four years apart.  She saves all of Thomas’ clothing and lets Ben wear it. It works for her because her boys aren’t into fashion and Ben has yet to complain about wearing Thomas’ old clothing.  I happily take hand-me-downs for my kids, too, since I seem to have been blessed with friends who have great taste in kids’ clothes!  I love shopping consignment sales, too, and Elena is still a fan of Goodwill.  Until that changes, we’ll shop second-hand all the way.

Hand-me-downs aren’t just for the kids, though.  One of my favorite stores to shop at is a women’s consignment store.  Lisa lives in the best neighborhood ever – the women organized an on-going clothing swap. About once a week, there is a bag of clothing for Lisa on the doorstep. She tries everything on, keeps what she will use and passes it on to the next house. The husbands are thrilled – one husband said, “My wife gets all new clothing and I don’t get a credit card bill.”

6. Shop Outside the Box

For years I was a grocery store snob.  And while I still have high standards about the kinds of food I buy, I could care less where I get them.  I will happily bag my own groceries and rent a cart to shop at Aldi.  Don’t even get me started on my love of the salvage grocery store in downtown Indianapolis (I call it the “scratch and dent”).  You can have your pristine box of organic snack bars from Whole Foods, I’ll take the dented one with $1. 79 scribbled on it in Sharpie.

7. Ditch the Car

Lisa and her family ride bikes whenever possible. They don’t drive to school, the library, the pool, the YMCA or the park. It saves gas, wear and tear on the car and gets them some exercise in the process.

8. Skip the Restuarants

Lisa and I both eat at the majority of our meals at home.  Okay, so maybe this isn’t to save money – it’s because our kids can be heathens in restaurants and won’t eat anything but mac-n-cheese or chicken nuggets. The bonus is that it saves a boatload of money, and it works because we enjoy cooking.  I’m sure your kids are absolute angels in restuarants, but you can still save some cash and eat at home more.  Learn to cook the foods you love to eat out at home.  Teach your kids valuable life skills in the kitchen – what kid doesn’t want permission to use a knife?

9. Stop the Gift Madness

Lisa stopped exchanging gifts with everyone – no birthday and holiday gifts for the adults on her side of the family. She only exchanges gifts with a few girlfriends. It’s a little scary at first to call someone up and say, “Hey, let’s not buy stuff for each other anymore.” What you’ll find is that everyone is relieved. Let’s face it, we all have too much stuff. If there’s something we want, we buy it ourselves. If Lisa finds a gift that’s perfect for someone, she buys it and sends it that day – she doesn’t wait for a holiday. Now when she gives or receives a gift, she knows it’s because someone was thinking of her –  not because of a day on the calendar.

A couple of years ago we pared down the amount of gifts we give at Christmas.  I enjoy baking and creating, so I do a lot of homemade gifts for adults (this homemade vanilla was a hit).  For the kids we limit it to a few things following this old adage: something you want, something you need, something you wear, something you read.  The gifts are more meaningful, we spend less, and holidays are less stressful.

10. Love the Library

This is in direct correlation to Number 2.  The book store (with kids) is not an outing, either.  Nothing makes me feel like more of a crap mom than telling my kids “No” when they want me to buy them a book.  We could easily drop a load of cash on books they only want to read once or twice at the book store, though.  Instead I give them free-range at the library.

What makes you a thrifty parent?





Let’s teach the kids to play quarters.

Teach Kids to Play Quarters

My kids learned how to play quarters last month. No, not the quarters that some people played in college. We have a token system that allows the children to earn screen time at our house. When Thomas handed me a token and told me that he was headed upstairs to play on the computer, I put the token on my elbow and said, “Watch this.” I did that thing where you quickly move you arm down and catch the token. The kids were amazed. It works better with real money so we grabbed a handful of change, cranked the tunes and went crazy.

The kids spent most of the morning playing quarters. We stacked multiple coins on our elbows. We tried both elbows at the same time. We experimented with different coins.

I know that this isn’t risky but it’s fun. And won’t we all sleep better if maybe, just maybe, when the kids are asked to play quarters their freshman year at college they will reply that,  “Yeah, my mom taught me how to play” and promptly stack a quarter on their elbow?