Create & Do

Time for a Knock Knock Party


Last week, my daughter Lucy ran a pancake stand to raise money for Kindermusik. (Full recap here.) Although it caught one couple expecting to score some lemonade a bit off guard, everyone hailed it as a great idea and wonderful success. And it was, for many reasons, not the least of which were all the lessons Lucy learned in the process.

But another unexpected benefit was the opportunity to get to know many of our neighbors better, as well as meeting some for the first time.

Although I am always wary of waxing on about how much better the olden days were (I’m not that old yet!), it sure seems like neighborhoods were closer and more tight-knit a few generations ago than they are now. People are working longer. Kids are involved in more scheduled activities outside of the home. It often seems like the only thing we do in our homes anymore is sleep.

But Lucy’s Pancake Stand reminded me how important that neighborhood connection can be. And how bringing it back is not as hard as it might seem.

Food is always a big draw.

Helping your kids set up a lemonade (or pancake) stand is one idea. But you could also bake some cookies and share them with neighbors. Or invite them over for pizza. Bring a soft drink to someone who just finished cutting their grass. Or plan a Knock Knock Party.

A Knock Knock Party is a bit more involved, but it sounds pretty cool. It was shared with me by a lady I met after a recent speaking engagement. Tammy, who was a veteran of many such parties, explained them like this: A number of families would plan to rise VERY early in the morning and converge on the doorstep of an unsuspecting neighbor. After what I’d guess would be several knocks, the sleepy neighbor would open the door to behold a pajama-clad caravan of people, armed with eggs, bacon, and pancake mix, ready to whip up an epic breakfast for the surprised family. Any annoyance over the early wake up call would fall prey to the friendly banter, flurry of generosity, and aroma of frying bacon.

One thing is certain: Adultitis would not approve.

We spend a lot of time rushing around to pad our resumes, collect accomplishment, and accumulate things, but the older I get, the more I see that relationships are the best part of life. Connecting with others just makes life better.

Rekindling the richness of the neighborhoods of yesteryear is not that hard. Yes, it takes a while to build the relationships that make a Knock Knock Party possible. But you have to start somewhere.

I recommend pancakes.

How to Host Your Very Own Escape Adulthood Party


Once upon a time, there was a friendly, kind, and generous woman named Joan. She attended an Escape Adulthood Summit in Madison and wanted to bring back some of the magic she experienced to a group of her friends. So she hosted the first ever Escape Adulthood Party. And a great time was had by all.

Joan didn’t ask for permission. She didn’t have an advanced degree in party planning. She just did it.

And Kim and I were just tickled pink about it. We have always thought this fight against Adultitis was bigger than us, and we are delighted whenever our suspicions are proven right.

The three Escape Adulthood Summits we’ve put on have been magical experiences, but the spirit that brings them to life is bigger than any one person, place, or parcel of time. Joan created a spark, and we set out to help fan the flame.

And so, two years ago, we went to work putting together a guide to inspire and encourage others to put on Escape Adulthood Parties of their own. After all, who couldn’t benefit from a little less Adultitis in their lives? And an excuse to have a party with no obligation other than to have ton of fun? Sign us up!

We’ve taken the concept of Joan’s original party, combined it with standard elements and best practices of an Escape Adulthood Summit, and sprinkled in tons of ideas provided by people like you. This guide is the result of that magical combination.

It’s been a labor of love, and it turned out to be quite a little gem. There are ideas on what kind of food to serve, what things to do, and what to talk about, along with a sample agenda and more inspiring decorating tips than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and if you’ve read Penguins Can’t Fly and had the idea that it would make a great book club book (bless your heart!), we’ve included a complete discussion guide for it as well. (Warning: adding elements of an Escape Adulthood Party to a standard book club has the potential to put all other book clubs to shame!)

Perhaps best of all, it’s 100% free. You can get it right here.

By all means, make Adultitis twitchy by spreading it far and wide.

Keep in mind that it is just a guide. We’ve given you an outline, but feel free to put your own spin on it to make it your own. Your party can be as casual or elaborate as you like. Our dream is to see people all over the world hosting Escape Adulthood Parties, reporting back with pictures and stories and tips on how to make them even better. We plan on updating it regularly with everyone’s good ideas.

The war against Adultitis is epic in scale. The good news is that the fight is fun.

May this guide prove to be a most useful weapon.

Undercover Alias: Why You Might Want a New Name


Whenever I get a coffee at Starbucks, and they ask me for my name, I always tell them “Jason.”

While this is completely honest, it’s also completely devoid of fun.

The next time you buy a coffee or put your name in at a restaurant, use a fake name as your alias. It could be a normal sounding name, the name of a fictional character, or something completely unusual like Cantaloupe or Melmac. Just make sure it’s fake!

Of course, you can do this with friends, too. At a conference I was speaking at recently (howdy OAEYC peeps!), two female attendees decided to make the random names that were printed on the side of their Coke can their aliases for the day. “Hilda” and “Kenneth” had a great time with this bit of silliness.

As usual, the simple things are the best ways to add a bit of whimsy to your day. They can make long days go faster, turn annoying customers into afterthoughts, or create memories that last years and years.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Han Solo needs to go get some coffee.

10 Non-Evil But Still Excellent April Fools Pranks


We recently hosted a live hangout on Facebook to celebrate the end of winter. It was a fun and frantic online hangout filled with laughter and lively discussion. We invited the partygoers to share their favorite April Fools Day prank. Here are some of the best:

My husband moved all of the clocks ahead 5 hours when I fell asleep on the couch. Woke up thinking that to had to get up for work in 45 minutes when it was really only 2:30 in the morning! (Lisa Toli)

Mashed potato ice cream cones. (via Sarah Jenkins)

At work, put the phone in the ceiling tiles. Or tape down the phone receiver. (via LA Denniston Klitzke)

My daughter put a rubber band around the kitchen sink sprayer. (via Karen Spicher Zakin)

Flour was put on the ceiling fan in the winter time…first spring day it was warm, the fan was turned on… (via Sue Gudenkauf)

Moved my coworker’s cup from where she put it on the drinking fountain to a shelf on the opposite back wall. Took her an hour to find it. (via Anna Baker)

Put colored milk into a pitcher in the fridge. My niece and nephew were surprised to be putting blue milk on their cereal. (via Kristin Hoehne)

I made a poop-shaped brownie and left it on the floor in front of the toilet for my husband to find! (via Amy Metcalf)

My mom likes to put a raisin in the toothpaste “neck”, so the person tries really hard to squeeze the tube and out pops a raisin! (via Wendy Whitney Scherer)

What’s your favorite April Fools prank? Share it in the comments below!

And to make sure you’re the first to know about our NEXT Escape Adulthood LIVE party, become an Insider!

How to Make Spring Cleaning Way More Fun


Last week we hosted a live party over on Facebook to celebrate the end of winter. (Winter exacted her revenge by dumping several inches of snow on us a few days later, which obviously proves that Winter has Adultitis.) Anyway, it was a fun and frantic online hangout filled with laughter and lively discussion. One of the topics that came up was spring cleaning. Namely, how to make it more FUN. (Is it even possible?)

You could try what my two-year-old son Ben did last year, which was to just throw everything out the window. Or you could try some of these gems, shared by some fellow Escape Artists:

Crank Up the Music
Many people talked about the power of music to inspire movement and make things more fun. Of course, the style of music is up to you, but 90’s music, 80’s music, dance music, and children’s music were all mentioned as options. And Wendy Whitney Scherer said she prefers Wisconsin Public Radio’s humorous and educational weekend shows.

Dance Like No One’s Watching
Fitbit owners rejoice! Anna Baker pointed out that by dancing, you can kill two birds with one stone by getting in extra steps AND tidying the house.

Reward Yourself
It’s always advisable to treat yourself for completing a less-than-exciting task. It keeps you moving forward and serves as worthy reward once you finish. Robert Bradford suggests eating a doughnut (or chocolate) at every milestone. Angel Bowen’s family goes the “eat ice cream for dinner” route. For Adam Braatz, a whiskey old-fashioned (or three) does the trick. And instead of one delayed reward after it’s all finished, Steve Arnold has a bunch of smaller rewards to enjoy after each, or the least favorite, chores. [Read more…]

Meet Marty, Mini Adultitis Fighter


One of the best ways to defeat Adultitis is to set booby traps for it.

An Adultitis Booby Trap is a simple item or routine you incorporate into your life for the purpose of serindipitously reminding yourself to smile, laugh, or take yourself lightly, particularly when Adultitis levels are at their highest.

Our favorite Adultitis Booby Trap involves a tiny penguin eraser called Marty. For many years, we used Gumby’s friend Pokey until we stumbled upon Marty, who reminded us of the hero on the cover of my book), and has since become a champion of dreaming big, ignoring common knowledge, and not waiting for permission. Almost anything can work, but the best candidates are small and waterproof.

The game is a bit like Hide & Seek, except instead of hiding and finding each other, you hide Marty. One person starts out with the task of hiding Marty in a place someone else will eventually find it. The person who finds Marty is then in charge of hiding him again, as the game continues indefinitely. The fun comes when you’re pouring yourself a bowl of cereal, taking a shower, or making copies, and Marty shows up unexpectedly, bringing with him a smile to brighten your day.

See? An Adultitis Booby Trap.

This game rocks because it’s a super simple way to add a bit of playfulness at home or work. Kim and I started this game when we were dating after getting the idea from some college friends.

Our friend Eliz plays this game with her mom, hiding a ceramic hen in each other’s houses. We were sitting at her dining room table one night for dinner and she started laughing hysterically. She had not noticed until just then that the hen was in her china cabinet. Her sneaky mom had put it there over a week before. So fun!

It’s all about adding more fun to your daily routine, easily and inexpensively. And don’t let the simplicity of this game cause you to underestimate its effectiveness. We have received countless reports in the last decade from people all over the world who have been stressing less and having more fun…all because of a “silly” game.

If you decide to adopt Marty yourself, you can pick one up here. Happy hiding!

The Penny Date


When you have a map to anywhere and GPS in your pocket, it’s really hard to get lost. I think that’s too bad, because sometimes getting lost can lead to great adventures.

Someone shared the idea of a “Penny Date” with me, and I wanted to pass it along.

The first rule is to get dressed to out and grab a penny. Get in the car and let your partner choose a number between 10 and 20. This will be the number of times you flip the penny. Pull out of the driveway and begin your adventure. Heads is right, Tails is left. Every time you come to an intersection, flip the penny and turn the corresponding direction. Once you get to the number your partner picked at the beginning, stop. Look around. Make a date where you are.

Pretty neat idea, isn’t it? Of course, this could be easily adapted for different scenarios. I regularly go on date nights with my daughter Lucy, and this would work just as well with her. Not to mention outings with the whole family or a couple of friends.

You don’t need a map. Or even a lot of money. You only need a spirit of adventure and a little creativity to have fun wherever you find yourself, just like when you were a kid.

Adultitis be gone!

The Perfect Gift is Not For Sale


What do you get for the person that has everything?

What’s an equally great gift for the person who has next to nothing?

Easy. How about the gift of time?

Last Christmas, an acquaintance of ours gave her children a piece of paper emblazoned with the words, “The Gift of Time.” Each kid got to pick an activity to do with just Mom and Dad. For example, one of the girls elected to go to a theatrical production of RENT.

I guarantee those memories made will last longer than some gadget that could have been gifted instead, destined to be sold at a garage sale sometime down the line. Every time I clean the house, I’m reminded that it would be a whole lot easier if we just had less stuff.

The last few years, we’ve encouraged friends and family to contribute toward experiences for our kids. A number of them pitched in towards private swimming lessons for Lucy. She loves it! She looks forward to her swim time every week, and I can’t believe how much her confidence has grown in the time since she first began. I don’t know of many toys that fit that bill.

Earlier this year, we helped Lucy cross something off her Bucket List: horseback riding. An hour-long stroll through the woods on the back of her favorite animal (besides a cheetah!) really made an impression. Check out her letter to Santa to see what’s on the top of her Christmas list this year.

We live in a society that is stuff rich and time poor. Time is the most valuable thing we have. It’s more in demand than Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo dolls ever were.

Experiences last long after a toy gets broken or outgrown. And the gift of time — the kind that is generous, unrestricted, and free of distraction — is as fitting a present for kids as it is for spouses, parents, neighbors, employees, and the neighbor lady across the street. Babysit for some busy parents so they can enjoy a dinner and a movie NOT rated ‘G.” Take a friend on a surprise adventure that includes a delicious lunch and a spa visit. Join the widow across the street when she walks her dogs and offer company and conversation.

At the end of our lives, we will not spend time taking inventory on all the stuff we collected. No, we will be reflecting on the scenes we created, the experiences that took our breath away, and the memories we made spending time with the people we love.

There’s nothing wrong with giving a meaningful, thoughtful gift that the recipient can hold and treasure. But if you’re stuck trying to find the perfect something for a certain somebody, a little time is all you need.

Thou Shalt Not Have Fun in Elevators


Willy Wonka’s glass elevator was an Adultitis Antidote. How many elevators can you say that about?

With all due respect to Aerosmith, elevators are not usually bastions of fun. They are awkward little boxes in which everyone stares blankly at the floor numbers, tightens the sphincter, and puts on their best grown-up face while staring straight ahead. It’s the equivalent of entering a walk-in closet with random strangers and closing the door.

But taking a page out of Mr. Wonka’s book is not that hard.

My friend Dan plays a game called Elevator Fight Club with his kids. When they are in an elevator together, after the doors close, they begin a fake boxing match with each other. The action stops as soon as the doors re-open. Dan has reported that it’s not uncommon for the fight to resume quietly even when someone else is with them. And of course, the first rule of Elevator Fight Club is that you do not talk about Elevator Fight Club, so I’ve already said too much.

twister-elevatorInnocent, a UK-based maker of fruit juices and smoothies, installed a Twister game in their elevator. How awesome is that? I suspect it is nearly impossible to walk into that elevator and not smile. Which is actually the genius of it. Full-blown human knots don’t have to result for an idea like this to reap benefits. Even if no one actually plays the game, just the fact that it’s there makes the company more buzz worthy, and a more fun place to work.

Some people report that they sometimes face the back of the elevator while everyone else is facing forward. I’ll admit that I’m not brave enough to try that, but I’m sure it makes Adultitis very uncomfortable.

Adultitis dominates certain locations in this world, and there is no doubt the elevator is one of them. If you ask me, it’s a perfect place for a full-on assault against this vile enemy.

What are YOUR favorite ways to have fun in an elevator?

Small Rebellion #9: Pay It Backward


Imagine placing an order at a drive-thru restaurant. (And yes, you definitely want fries with that.) You pull up to the window and begin digging out some cash only to learn from the store employee that the person ahead of you already paid for your meal. Wouldn’t that make you feel amazing? If you were having a bad day up until that point, what are the odds that your mood changes?

This concept is known as “paying it backward.” It’s similar to “paying it forward,” which is the expression for describing when the beneficiary of a good deed repays it to someone else instead of the original benefactor. Paying it forward is a reaction to something that’s already happened. Paying it backward is starting the action in the first place.

And it’s definitely a small rebellion. [Read more…]

Dinnertime Shenanigans: Ye Olde Timey Dinner


When you’re a kid, dressing up all fancy for dinner is exciting. Although it can be fun for grown-ups too, it doesn’t take long for Adultitis to creep in when one begins to worry about which fork to use or whether or not you have spinach in your teeth. The premise of an Olde Timey Dinner — one of the highlights from the 2014 Escape Adulthood Summit — is to keep the fun and ditch the pretense.

You don’t need to attend an Escape Adulthood Summit to experience the fun of Ye Olde Timey Dinner. Here are some tips for hosting your own:


You can serve whatever you want, but the most important thing is to use the good china. If you need some convincing, read this. Even Kraft Macaroni & Cheese takes on gourmet status when served on fancy plates. (If you don’t have any fancy plates, just put the lights down low and light a few candles — instant fancy!)

If you need some inspiration, we had fun putting a childlike spin on the traditional seven-course format with the following menu:

Appetizer: PB&J Sushi Rolls
Soup: ABC Vegetable Soup
Salad: Fruit Shish-kabob with Drizzled Yogurt Sauce
Sorbet: Dreamsicle
Fish Entree: Fruity Pebbles Encrusted Tilapia with Strawberry-Mango-Jalapeño Salsa and green beans
Meat Entree: Bacon Cheeseburger Slider with house made Potato Chips
Dessert: Key Lime Tart



Get gussied up! We provided pearl necklaces, top hats, DIY bow ties, feather-adorned flapper girl headbands and fake mustaches for attendees to complement their jeans and t-shirts. Feather boas and long gloves are naturals as well. Nothing wrong with requiring guests to wear real dress-up clothes, if that floats your boat. Of you could challenge people to come outfitted with the fanciest clothes they can find at a second hand store, with the requirement of bringing the receipt as proof.


Music is an important element of Ye Olde Timey Dinner. We found a collection of hits from the 1920s, which was a perfect soundtrack. You could also dig out some jazz or classical music, depending on what kind of mood you’re looking for.


We put tent cards at each table that encouraged diners to pepper their conversations with old fashioned words and phrases. (See top photo.) Frankly, it was one of the best parts of the whole affair. Keep in mind that a thorough understanding of each word is not required. Bonus laughter came when someone blurted out the word nonsensically. You can download the tent cards we used right here. (Just print them on card stock, cut them down the middle, fold ’em in half and you’re good to go.)

So that’s the gist of an Olde Timey Dinner. The goal of this article is to get you started, but we also hope that you put your own spin on the concept and share your ideas in the comments below!

Don’t dilly dally on this opportunity to starve Adultitis. May your shenanigans raise a ruckus to remember!

5 Ways to Turn Messes into Memories


Our society is over-sanitized. We emphasize order and cleanliness and anti-bacterial EVERYTHING. But when kids do what comes naturally — get messy — good things result. Not only does Adultitis throw a hissy fit, but according to a 2012 report by The National Wildlife Federation, playing in the mud provides benefits to immune systems, hearts and skin, as well as kids’ emotional wellbeing and learning skills.

According to Dr. Joel Weinstock, director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, “Children raised in an ultraclean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.” For their own benefit, Dr. Weinstock argues, “Children should go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt and not have to wash hands when they come in to eat.”

In addition to Adultitis prevention and health benefits, messes are an especially effective way to create memories with the people you love. (Not to mention the awesome photo ops!) Here are five magical ways to turn messes into memories:

Mud Day

A while back, a teacher at a childcare center told me that they had celebrated International Mud Day. Flyers were sent out ahead of time instructing the parents to pack an extra set of old clothes (including underwear!). On the big day, they used a garden hose to transform a dirty patch of ground into a glorious mud hole and gave the kids permission to go crazy. The children rolled around in the mud and squealed in delight as they covered their teachers in the brown slime.

I was smitten by the concept, and was so happy to learn that International Mud Day is a real thing. This year’s day of splashing, rolling, squishing, sliding, making mud pies is June 29th.

For more photos, resources, and the history of International Mud Day, go here.

For an afternoon that won’t soon be forgotten, just add mud.

Flour Game

Get a teacup or small bowl and pack it tight with flour. Regular, white flour. Flip the cup over onto a plate, remove it, and carefully place a Lifesaver candy on top. (Some people use a coin of some sort, but candy is better in every way.) Then everyone takes turns cutting the flour with a knife, taking care not to disturb the Lifesaver. The person who makes the Lifesaver fall has to fish it out with their mouth. No hands — or feet — allowed.

It is a game in search of an occasion. It’s perfect for birthdays, Christmas parties, even National Flour Month, which is March, in case you’re wondering.

Big Top Living Room

Build an extravagant and elaborate living room fort. Every kid has made a simple, makeshift fort with sheets and blankets, but there’s no doubt the experience and know-how of an adult can add a lot to the party. What extravagant, elaborate fort could you create with clips, clamps, rope, rubber bands, bungee cords, and duct tape? Think multiple rooms, secret passageways, and maybe even different levels!

Our friend Scott used a canceled flight as an opportunity to spend the entire day in his hotel room making an impressive fort of epic proportions, utilizing mattresses, end tables, sheets and bed spreads. If you do this one right, it should take you one or more hours to complete. When you’re finished, bask in the glory of your accomplishment by watching a movie or having a picnic inside.


Barbarian Spaghetti

Next time you have spaghetti…don’t use plates. Just plop the spaghetti in the middle of the table, and have the meal participants pull their portions toward themselves. If you want to keep the messiness to a minimum, make sure to use a plastic tablecloth and clean up will be a breeze!

Now, would the idea of Barbarian Spaghetti make Martha Stewart hyperventilate and possibly slip into a coma? Probably.

Is it messy and cheap and simple and silly and childlike and fun?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

And what are the odds that the participants will have created a scene they will not soon forget?


Dinner of Bad Manners

Host a dinner in which good manners are strictly forbidden.

That’s right, forbidden.

Anything goes. Elbows on the table. Napkins optional. Burping welcome. Slurping your spaghetti. Talking with a mouthful of meatballs. Rudely demanding for the peas to be passed pronto.

As you might imagine, the kids reeally look forward to this. And I’d bet my last dollar the parents do, too. Even though Miss Manners might flip her lid, we all need permission from time to time to take a break from the rules, blow off some steam, and not take ourselves so seriously. And who knows? You could actually turn it into a teachable moment about why good manners are important.

Your turn: What’s your favorite idea for turing a mess into a memory?

Who’s Up for an Ugly Dinner?


If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you certainly know of our proclivity for Ugly Treats. We wholeheartedly encourage people to make disgusting-looking cookies, cakes, and other desserts…just for fun.

Well, an astute reader recently reminded me that dessert doesn’t have to be the only food group up for an ugly makeover. She pointed me to an article highlighting 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes. Below are a few of my favorites:

Liver Sausage Pineapple
Imagine mixing together liver sausage, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mayonnaise and gelatin into the shape of a pineapple. Then imagine the people you made it for hating you forever.

Monterey Soufflé Salad
This one looks totally great; I’m just not a fan of pimentos. Or mixing seafood and lemon Jell-O. But that’s just me.

Super Salad Loaf
If you want to be happy when company comes…then don’t make this.

Granted, each of these dishes look like they’ve been beaten repeatedly with the ugly stick. The truly upsetting aspect is that none of theme are intended to be so. These are real, legitimate recipes developed by sincere, well-intentioned (and possibly blind) people.

However, there’s nothing saying you can’t change that intention.

What if you had a dinner party featuring ugly cookies that was proceeded by an ugly main course? You could take and use these exact recipes as your guide!

Just remember, treat gelatin as the workhorse it is!

While there is a chance no one will have an appetite by the time you unveil what’s for dinner, one thing is certain: Adultitis will find another home to occupy on that day!

Adultitis Antidote #2: Spatula City


About once a month, the parents would pull out a bunch of unusual kitchen utensils and pile them on the table. Things like spatulas, spaghetti forks, soup ladles, whisks, potato mashers and giant serving spoons were on display. Each child was instructed to select one item from the pile.

And then they would have to eat their entire dinner using just that utensil.

To make things even more interesting, the mother kept the dinner menu a secret.

This is an idea that I got from an elderly couple in Virginia several years back. Their kids loved it so much, that now that they’re older, they do it with the grandkids. We’ve fondly nicknamed it “Spatula City.”

It’s a simple concept, really. But as usual, the best ones usually are.

If you’ve ever been to one of my speaking programs, you’ve probably heard this idea. The big question is, have you tried it?

Dude Transforms Deck Into Pirate Ship


In January, I did a program for a big healthcare company and afterwards I met a guy named Randy who said he had a deck in his backyard that looked like a pirate ship.

Naturally, my curiosity was stoked. Did it come with the house? Was it seaworthy? Was talking like a pirate required for entry?

Happily for all of us, I was able to get the full story — plus pictures! Randy and his wife bought the house in 1999 and have been throwing summer theme parties ever since. (The first one was a Hawaiian style luau, complete with pork roasts wrapped in banana leaves, placed on really hot rocks, covered with a sheet, and then an entire sandbox of sand.) This year’s theme was Jaws, in honor of the 30th anniversary of its release (photo here and here.) Needless to say, it’s been a fun way for the couple to let their inner child come out to play.

The pirate ship deck emerged from one of these parties. Here’s Randy to tell the story:

One year we had a real big one and it was pirate themed. It was a perfect combination. Everybody showed up and (for a change) the weather was perfect. I worked for myself so I had lots of time to set it up. We made pirate ships out of refrigerator boxes, carpet tubes and palettes. We had 300 black water balloons for cannon balls. We also made our deck into the fortress, complete with jail (made out of 2x4s and PVC pipes painted black) and a pillory. Almost everybody dressed up as a pirate, including two people that wore Pittsburgh Pirate uniforms. (We put them in the jail as impostors.)

The party was such a success that everyone wondered how we could match it the next year. Well, I helped my neighbor tear out his deck, and the boards were really floppy, and I decided to use them to turn my entire deck into a ship. It was mostly made of old deck boards, with very little investment of money. I got the telephone pole from a friend who owned a farm and wanted it gone. The rest is semantics.


Pretty epic, huh? Just goes to show you what you can do with a little imagination, a supportive wife, and a neighbor with an old, crappy deck.

Have you or someone you know ever done any childlike home improvements? Share ’em in the comments!

Adultitis Antidote #1: Sticky Cup


This is a wonderful April Fool’s Day prank that’s fun to do all year long. Just be aware of the national emergency you will cause for everyone around you.

Well, some people will not even notice. But the ones who do are likely to drive miles — I mean MILES, people — out of their way to let you know that you have Taco Bell on the top of your car. Of course, you and the people driving with you have the task of acting clueless. That’s part of the fun (and a challenge).

One guy reported to me that it’s the perfect way to occupy kids on long road trips. They love watching the reactions of other drivers!

One thing’s for sure, there’s no easier or cheaper way to have fun in any economy than “Sticky Cup.”

How to Create Your Own Holiday


How hard is it to create your own holiday?

If you want to be all official about it, you can register your holiday with Chase’s Calendar of Events. But even that’s not a requirement.

A lady I met at a speaking engagement in Orlando told me about her son who lives in San Francisco. In honor of his birthday, he started putting homemade signs up everywhere that said, “June 1st is Pirate’s Day.” That’s it. He put them on trains, telephone poles, and other public hot spots. And sure enough, June 1st came around and people could be spotted wearing eyepatches and various pirate gear.

Granted, San Francisco is known for being a little eccentric. But I’m willing to bet you could have similar results if you tried this in your workplace, your neighborhood, or even your own home.

Turns out all you really need to start your own holiday is a little imagination, a few signs, and some courage.

What do you think would be a great new holiday?

10 Pro Tips for Your Next Jell-O Cook-off


What do you get when you mix geology students and Jell-O? Amazing Adultitis-fighting fun to inspire us all!

stained-glass-jelloWhen Meredith Rhodes Carson was studying geology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, one of the highlights was the annual Jell-O Cook-Off in which contestants created geologically-inspired, gelatin-infused masterpieces. The photo at right is a copy of a stained glass window in Weeks Hall on campus. Some of the categories included: Tallest Jell-O, Best Representation of a Faculty Member, Most Wisconsin (one winning entry was actually made with beer), and Most Aerodynamic. (One infamous entry, a drumlin-shaped Jell-O with Rice Krispies in it, was launched off of the balcony of Weeks Hall FOUR times before complete destruction.) The only real rules was that entries had to be primarily Jell-O, not necessarily edible.

We strongly advocate the making of ugly cakes and cookies; why not bring Jell-O into the mix?

In talking to Meredith after one of my presentations, I was fascinated by her scientific knowledge of Jell-O. Or at least what you need to know to compete in a cook-off at a high level! Since I figured you might find yourself inspired to instigate a Jell-O Cook-Off of your own, I’ve asked Meredith to share some of her best tips for creating works of art in the medium of Jell-O: [Read more…]

Small Rebellion #8: Scram Winter (aka How To Survive a Long Winter)


This year, Old Man Winter was especially diabolical. We got tired of waiting for him to leave, so we took matters into our own hands and invited others to join us in a Small Rebellion we called Scram Winter.

The MISSION: Sometime between now and the last official day of winter, ignore the snowflakes and subzero temps and host a tropical party indoors! Do it with your family, some friends, or invite a whole cruise ship full of people; the only requirement is to be creative in your avoidance of the evidence of winter! Jack up the thermostat. Serve tropical drinks. Blow up some inflatable palm trees. Wear Hawaiian shirts (and don’t forget the shorts!)


We invited about a dozen people and jacked up our thermostat to 82º about two hours before they arrived. We made up some frozen strawberry margaritas, complete with tiny umbrellas… [Read more…]

Adultitis Officially Grounded at Denver Airport


I spend a lot of time in airports. Airports are like kids. They can be a CAUSE of Adultitis or they can be a CURE for Adultitis.

It all depends on your approach.

Sara Alvarado LOVES airports. She gets a kick out of watching all the people with Adultitis freak out over stuff that in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter. On a recent visit to the Denver Airport, Sara and her son Leo bought some silly putty and did a little redecorating to some advertisements hanging on the wall.

It doesn’t take much to ground Adultitis. Lucky for us, we have people like Sara to show us how easy (and fun) it can be.

A Champion of Childhood is someone instilled with the soaring spirit of childhood who rallies against rules that don’t exist while engaging in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine the slavery of Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. We like shining a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against Adultitis. See more here.

Ben’s Purple Mustache


Adultitis was kicking our butt.

It had been exactly a month since Virginia Rose was born. A good month, to be sure, but also a long one. Weary of the bitter cold weather, our entire family was tired of being cooped up, and the older two kids were passing time by pushing our buttons. Two-year-old Ben had a streak of purple under his nose, a colorful souvenir from “smelling” the markers we used to keep him quiet. Although we pined for an afternoon at a Florida beach, it was decided that going out to lunch was the best we could hope for today.

As I went to wipe the marker from Ben’s face, Kim made some comment about him looking a bit like Hitler. Then she said, “I wish we could just draw mustaches on our kids, wouldn’t that be awesome?”

“It would be,” I agreed.

“Why don’t we?” she asked.

I could tell by her tone that she was kind of serious. And so I paused to ponder a serious response.

“Because of what other people might think,” I answered.

Before I even finished the sentence, I knew what I had to do.

“Give me that purple marker,” I said. After glancing to confirm it was the washable variety, I removed the cap and called Ben over. Then I drew a bold and curly mustache on my son. Although he cooperated, it’s fair to say he had no idea what I was doing.

“Ok.” I proclaimed. “NOW, let’s go to lunch.

And we did, with our purple mustachioed son in tow.


It did garner some attention. No calls from DCFS, as Adultitis had warned. Instead, the people who noticed universally responded with smiles of delight at my oblivious son who looked like a tiny ringleader in a circus sponsored by Willy Wonka. And it was awesome.

Here’s a tip: If you are faced with an opportunity to do something, and the only reason you don’t is because of what someone else might think, you can be certain that Adultitis is up to no good. If you are serious about winning this war, and you are desirous of living an amazing story, you must do that very thing, without hesitation. You must.

Family with spring fever and three kids, five and under: 1, Adultitis: 0.

Share a time when YOU did something fun without regard to what other people might think. Leave a comment below!

School Celebrates Family with Ugly Cookies & Barbarian Spaghetti


A few years ago, I spoke at a school in Wisconsin, giving presentations for the staff and the parents. I shared the Ugly Cookie story, just like I (almost) always do. Lots of people have heard that story over the years.

But Pete Hirt, the principal of the school, took it and ran with it.

Not long after my talk, a parent of one of the students was diagnosed with cancer. Pete and the community sprang into action to help raise money for the family. Pete suggested they do an “Ugly Cake Auction,” in which people would be invited to decorate cakes in the ugliest manner possible. About 1,000 people descended upon the gym to bid on dozens of deliciously ugly cakes.

They raised $15,000.

Last night, I was invited back to be a part of an evening designed to Celebrate Family. I would again be speaking to the staff and parents, but also added to the agenda was a Barbarian Spaghetti dinner and an Ugly Cookie decorating contest. The goal was to give parents tips and ideas for stressing less and having more fun, while providing an opportunity for families to make memories together.

As you’ll see in the photos below…mission accomplished. [Read more…]



Baby toes. Ocean sunsets. Cream puffs from the Wisconsin State Fair.

These are a few of my favorite things.

When we focus on the stuff that’s missing from our stories, it’s the equivalent of inviting Adultitis into your living room and encouraging him to put up his feet while you prepare him a seven course dinner. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be surprised at how difficult it is to get him to leave at the end of the night.

On the other hand, cultivating a sense of gratitude is like slapping a restraining order on the big jerk.

As much as I have to be grateful for, I still find it all too easy to take the good parts of my life for granted. And as the old saying goes, we don’t know how good we have it ’till it’s gone.

The recent post from my friend Ryan really struck a nerve with me. He wrote about the idea of taking one picture a day of something you are grateful for. One thing. And then post it on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or wherever. It’s sort of like a gratitude journal, except it’s so easy a caveman could do it. If cavemen had smartphones.

Well, color me inspired. I intend to celebrate Thanksgiving Day thirty times this November. Starting on the first, and for the whole month, I will be posting my one thing every day on Instagram, using the hashtag #thankstagram.

Who’s in?

Small Rebellion #7: Halloween Unleashed


Halloween is exciting for kids and adults, too;
Dressing in costume: a thing we all love to do.

But why settle for parties or just Trick or Treat?
What if you wore one when you went out to eat?

Perhaps shopping for groceries or driving car pool;
Or serving on jury duty would even be cool.

Or maybe while getting your vision corrected;
Just wear your costume somewhere unexpected.

Adultitis won’t like it and people might stare;
The rebellion is knowing that you just don’t care.

Halloween is the best. I love that it’s free of the obligatory gift-buying and mountains of stress that usually accompany the other major holidays. Halloween is pretty much just about fun. And zombies.

I also love that although Trick or Treating is still a domain of childhood and rambunctious teenagers, it’s not uncommon for grown-ups to get in on the costume-wearing fun. However, most of us over the age of twenty usually require a bit of “costume cover.” You know, that socially acceptable event or occasion where it’s “appropriate” to dress up.

But what if you dressed up in costume for a dinner out with your sweetheart? Or for your weekly trip to the supermarket? Or for jury duty? [Read more…]

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