Getting Through Bare Patches of Play


To say the last two months have been difficult for our family would be an understatement.  Are you familiar with the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale?  We scored with moderate to high levels of stress.  We’ve been on vacation, gone through the holidays, put our home up for sale, and buried my father-in-law.  As I write this we are in the midst of a double move – first to temporary housing and then to a new home.

I find it hard enough to keep the kids engaged in screen-free play and risky fun during the cold winter months, but adding all these additional changes and stresses on top of the winter doldrums has meant we are in a MAJOR RISKY RUT.

I can’t tell you the last time we played outside.  I can’t remember the last time we did something all together as a family.  Our days seem to be a blur of traveling, packing, errands, and in the midst of all of it the kids are entertaining themselves with screen time. Loads and loads of screen time.

I know that it’s a rut, and I know that as sure as the flowers will bloom and the trees will bud, we’ll emerge from this tumultuous season with a renewed desire to simply PLAY.  However I also want to remain honest with you.  It can be so easy to read magazines, blogs and Pinterest and feel inadequate.  In my mind the families I admire are living the life I want to lead every minute of every day.  But that simply isn’t true.  Sometimes we just have to get through the day.

This blog is both a way to inspire you and a way to hold myself accountable to living a spirited, playful life.  It’s also real life, though, and sometimes it gets in the way.  So if you’re ever reading our posts and thinking that you can’t possibly live up to our standards (even as low as they are!), rest assured that we are just as human as you.  Be inspired, but cut yourself some slack.

For those of you who’ve been down this path before, perhaps you can inspire us now.  How do you manage to get through life’s rougher patches and still find ways to play?  This Risky Family (and I’m sure a few others) would love to know.



Our Most Popular Posts of 2012

Happy New Year!  I can hardly believe it’s 2013.  This is the year I send my youngest to kindergarten, and will officially be a mom of school-age children.  Yikes.

Have you made any resolutions for your family life?  Things have been a little more squirrely here than usual, so I haven’t had a chance to make anything official yet, but I have a mantra for 2013 floating in my head: Less screens. More pages and play.  Yes, even Risky Families struggle with screen time.  It’s an issue for us, and definitely something I want to address in the coming days.  Is it a struggle for you, too?

Lisa and I are doing our best to get back to a normal posting schedule this month, and we have some really cool posts coming up (including a giveaway for our 1-year anniversary – can you believe it?!).  However that might be a little tricky in the next week or two.  My trusty Mac, on which I do 99% of my work, is living at the Apple store right now.  Keep your fingers crossed that it can be fixed, will ya?  We are also dealing with a very ill family member, which may require last minute trips out of town.  So while we might be spotty for the coming days, we will be back in full risky force soon.  Thank you so much for continuing to read, share and play with us.

And just in case you’re new here or you just had to know, here are the 5 most popular posts from The Risky Kids in 2012:

Make a slingshot

50 Dangerous Things: Make a Slingshot

50 Dangerous Things: Lick a 9-Volt Battery

Nature Playscape at Cincinnati Nature Center

Nature Playscape at the Cincinnati Nature Center

Make Your Own Darts

DIY Darts

50 Dangerous Things: Stick Your Hand Out the Window

50 Dangerous Things: Stick Your Hand Out the Window


A Vow to Play Even Harder

Thoughts have been tumbling around in my head since I first heard about the horrible events in Newtown, CT last Friday.  Between the anger, profound sadness and many tears, I couldn’t help but wonder if this tragedy will affect the way I parent.  Of course, we all naturally use events like these to pull closer to our families and vow to remember how blessed and lucky we are to have each other.  Like many of you, I hugged and kissed my children over the weekend to the point of annoyance, neither of them really aware of why their mom was so maddeningly affectionate or tearful.

When I dropped my son off at school on Monday morning, I found the doors to his peaceful, secluded school locked for the first time in the six years we’ve attended.  Part of me was relieved (they’re taking every precaution!), and part of me was heartbroken (so this is what we’ve come to).

My chain of worrisome thoughts always returns to this: there is only so much I can do to keep my children safe.  Yes, we can reflect on the tragic events and put great minds together to find ways to prevent any more heinous crimes such as this.  We can and we must.  But as I go about my everyday life with my children, I feel a stronger conviction than ever to continue our Risky ways.

The ultimate goal of The Risky Kids is to share ways to raise kids who are independent, resilient, brave, and above all, happy.  There is tremendous pride and joy in climbing a tree, learning to make something yourself, and conquering the fear of the unknown.  I hope that should a dangerous situation ever present itself to my kids, they will have the skills we’ve taught them through play to come out unharmed.  But, God help us all, if they find themselves in a situation beyond our control that takes their lives?  Then more than anything I want to know that their lives up until their final moment were filled with adventure, love, laughter and joy.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.  I keep on swallowing.  ~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Instead of panic and fear, let’s turn our hands and hearts to love and service.

Victoria Haller, @VDog on Twitter, is one of the first bloggers I ever met, way back in my early Blissdom days.  Her nephew, Noah Pozner, was one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook.  If you are feeling called to do something more, please consider helping out this family.  Noah leaves behind 3 siblings, including his twin sister.  The family has set up a trust to help Noah’s siblings during this time of grief.  If you would like to donate you, you can do so through Noah’s Ark of Hope Fund.  You can also send cards, drawings, and notes of love to Noah’s family here:

Noah’s Ark of Hope Fund

261 S. Main St. #332

Newtown, CT 06470

I’d like to leave you with a link to this post – Noah Pozner: a force of nature – written by Noah’s grandmother.  It’s a sweet tribute to Noah’s spirit in all its 6-year-old glory.  We will never forget you, Noah, nor will we forget the other children who lost their lives or the adults who died protecting them.  We vow to play harder than ever for you and your friends. Their spirits will live on through our pursuit of play.



A few days ago we inadvertently published a post that was still in draft form.  Usually this means it just needs some polishing, and publishing it might only mean that we expose you to a few run-on sentences or missing photos.  This one, however, contained language not appropriate for a family blog.  The post was removed as soon as we noticed, but those of you who subscribe to us via email or an RSS feed may have seen it.  We sincerely apologize, and while we can’t promise we won’t cuss in real life, we can promise to donate to the swear jar and keep The Risky Kids f-bomb free.  Thanks for understanding.


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?


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?


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?


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!


Growing the Risky Family: Welcome Lisa!

I’ve been fortunate from the very beginning of launching The Risky Kids to have so much support.  So many have you have shared with me that The Risky Kids is helping you in some way – whether it’s to feel like you’ve met a tribe of parents who share your philosophy or whether it’s to use us as a resource to stretch beyond your comfort zone as parents.  Whatever the reason, it makes me so happy.

I know, however, that this could be so much more.  If only we had more hours in the day!  Or more help!  And then it hit me: who says I’m the only one who has something to offer here?  I might not be able to make more hours magically appear, but I can definitely recruit someone to help out.

Handstand Lisa

Friends, I’d like you to welcome Lisa Abramson to The Risky Kids.  From the very moment I had the idea for the blog, Lisa was my biggest cheerleader.  Not only does she always have my back, she also inspires me to be more adventurous.  Only Lisa can get me away from my People magazine on our annual Girls’ Trip to kayak into shark dolphin-infested waters.  That’s tenacity, people.

IMG_4526 copy

She brings that same spirit of adventure into her family life.  Lisa is married to Roger and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.  She’s the mother of two boys, Thomas (9) and Ben (5).  We first met in a playgroup when Thomas and Elena were just babies.  Like me, Lisa has seen her parenting philosophy change as her kids have grown and she’s become a more seasoned mom.

She writes, “I was a risky kid.  I walked on top of the monkey bars.  I did back flips off the swings.  I had a mini-trampoline in my college dorm room.  Then I had kids of my own and I will be the first to admit it – I hovered.  I spent my days swooping in and yelling things like “Don’t touch!” and “Get down!”  Lucky for my kids my husband wasn’t having any of it.  It took many years but he brought me back to my risky roots.

Now we spend our days slacklining, kayaking, skateboarding and biking.  We’ve been known to stay out after dark, get a little lost and maybe miss a meal.  We can’t wait for more adventures.”

We both choose to do this not because we have all the answers (believe me, we don’t!), but because we love the way it challenges us to think about the way we parent and live out our lives.

From here forward, The Risky Kids will be a partnership between Lisa and I.  You’ll still see lots of posts from me (and on the rare occasion a post from Mike), but you’ll be seeing Lisa’s writing as well.  It’s our hope that by partnering with each other, we can bring even more awesome to The Risky Kids, with more topics, more viewpoints, more posts, and more inspiration.  And hopefully, more photos of giant toilets.

Lisa's in the Crapper

Welcome to The Risky Kids, Lisa! I can’t wait to share more adventures with you and all of our awesome risky readers!


National Backyard Games Week: Simon Says Go Outside!

Water Balloon Fight

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a group of kids roughly my age to play with nearby.  We lived just up the street from a lake, and the kids that lived on the lake had the absolute best yard to play in.  I don’t ever recall them having a sandbox, a swing set, or even that many toys, really.  But they had a lake we could swim in, a tree we could climb on, a hill made for rolling in the summer and sledding in the winter, and the perfect open grassy area for pretty much any game we came up with.

I remember playing kickball, baseball, tag, red rover, red light green light, sharks and minnows and every variation of TV show/movie that was popular in the mid-to late-80s (The A-Team anyone?).

May 21-27, 2012 is National Backyard Games week.  It’s a week set aside to encourage families and friends to play together outside.  Thinking back on the games I played as a child, I realized how little my kids know about these games.  It’s not that we haven’t made an effort, it’s that rarely are there any other kids outside to play with.  Have you ever tried to play freeze tag with just your little brother?  It’s pretty lame.

Here are a few resources to get you outside and playing in your backyard.  It might be a little quiet out there at first, but my hope is that as more and more of us encourage our kids to play freely outside, there will be more kids to play games with.

Go Out and Play!: Favorite Outdoor Games from KaBOOM!

A great resource with more than 70 well-loved outdoor games.  Explains how to play each game, and lists useful information like how many players are needed, what ages can play, what kind of space you need and any necessary materials.

The Daring Book for Girls and/or The Dangerous Book for Boys

We have the girls’ book and it has some great ideas, such as 14 Games of Tag, jump rope games, hopscotch and jacks.

50 Old-Fashioned Games Kids Can Play via Nanny Jobs

Now get outside and play! Last one off the computer is a rotten egg!