Tag Archives: family activities

How to Host a No Holds Barred Water Fight

My uncle started it.

Back in the 90s, he’d sneak into a room where we girls were huddled around the television and turn the super soaker on us, then take off on us before we could get our revenge.

We’ve all gotten older but haven’t outgrown our love of the water fight. If anything, age has made us wiser, craftier, and more patient in battle. And those traits are reflected in the quality of our fights. It’s also hardened us. Well, most of us. The men in our family don’t think it’s at all unmanly to hide behind a woman or child rather than get wet. If it’s human, then it can be used as a shield. The old, young, infirm, and pregnant are likely to find themselves sprayed–unless they spray first.

We’ve perfected the water fight. I don’t say that lightly. And so, as experts with decades of practice, we share the following tips:

1. Identify a target. In this water fight, it’s my cousin’s fiance. His family welcomed our family into the fold with a lovely dinner party. This is our way of reciprocating. (In our defense, we did feed him afterward.)

2. Give yourselves plenty of time to plan. Don’t procrastinate. We like a premeditated water fight. This looks like an innocent stroll toward the badminton net. Because we planned it that way.

3. Have a variety of weapons. Water balloons, buckets, super soakers, hoses–we use them all. Liberally.

4. Know your battlefield. Are there multiple exits? You don’t want the target to escape. Where are the best places to hide balloons? You want to make sure everyone on your team has ready access to them. How big is the area and how long is the water hose? It’s no fun if your target can cower in a far-off corner, smug and dry, while you try to spray him.

5. Make sure everyone knows how this is going to go down. You want this to look like a well-oiled operation, not a startup. In our family, if you’re old enough to stand up, then you’re going to hear the plan. And be expected to adhere to it and do your part.

6. Show no pity. The fiance’s stunned expression and plaintive cries of, “Why are you doing this to me?” should not worm their way into your heart. Pretend it’s white noise.

And when he’s thoroughly soaked but you still have water balloons, it would be a shame not to use them. Also, your teammates will turn on you first if you wait too long.

7. Laugh like you haven’t laughed since you were a kid. Squeal. Point and hoot.

8. Pick up all the pieces of water balloon in the yard. We play dirty, but we do clean up after ourselves.


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Dropping Pennies into Vinegar, or, Money Laundering the Legal Way

The first thing on Rue’s mind when she wakes up is food. After that need has been taken care of, it’s not unusual for the next question out of her mouth to be if she can do a science experiment.

It’s one of the many things I love about her.

We’ve also been talking about money quite a bit lately–the difference between the coins and bills, parts to whole, save versus spend, that kind of thing. Saving is everything to Rue. She’s one of the only kids I know who, after watching that pivotal scene in Mary Poppins where the bankers try to take young Michael Banks’ tuppence, insists that it’s a better idea to save your money in the bank than feed the pigeons.

Those pigeons won’t be getting any handouts from this young capitalist.

Thanks to Chickadee Magazine for supplying a science experiment that I am functional enough to do just after the clock has struck six in the morning.

Mix 1 teaspoon of salt into 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.

Add some grimy pennies. Let them sit for a couple of minutes. Why do most of them suddenly look brand-spanking new? Rue wanted to add a dime and a quarter to see if anything happened to them, and who was I to say No? That gave us lots to talk about.

The science is simple enough that even I can grasp it. Pennies contain copper. Over time, the copper reacts with air and forms copper oxide, swathing Mr. Lincoln’s face in a dull, greenish residue. The acid in the vinegar-salt mixture dissolves the copper oxide and restores the shine to the penny.

Whew! Is that you, vinegar???

We noticed that not all of our pennies looked like they’d been through a car wash after a good soak in the vinegar solution. Nacho Man, who loves to talk about the devaluation of currency, would be happy to go on and on and on about how recently minted pennies contain almost no copper at all.

I dare him to.

If I have to listen to it, then so should you.

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They’re not lazy. They’re efficient.

“Rue, it’s time for school! Do you have socks?”


“Run up here and grab a pair! We were supposed to leave five minutes ago.”

“I’m already wearing my tennis shoes.” Pregnant pause. “Can you use the pulley to send a pair down in the bucket?”

Hey, I didn’t say they had to be clean socks.

Good to know that I’m not the only simple machine around here.

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Four Corners, Rue’s Way

Preschoolers spend a lot of time being taught things by grownups. And if you’re the youngest child, you’ve got older siblings who want to pack on the knowledge too. But Rue got to be the teacher the other day.

She taught us a new game. She calls it Four Corners, and it’s a twist on the Four Corners game many of us played in elementary school. You can play it as soon as you finish reading this post. All you need are two (or more) players and four pieces of paper, numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Find some open floor space. Have your kids set out the numbered papers in something resembling the four cardinal points.

Decide on a person to be It.

It stands or kneels in the middle of the room. It covers Its eyes and plugs Its ears (a bandana might come in handy if you have peekers). It counts to twenty. Nice and slow.

As It is counting, everyone else is scrambling to get to a number as quietly as possible. Sometimes they mess with It–rumple his hair, pat his head, tickle his feet, that sort of thing.

Do you get the sense that Nacho Man spent a lot of time being It?

Everyone should be in place by the time It gets to twenty.  It will point to a corner and call out a name. If It is wrong, It is greeted by the sound of silence. Unless you’re overcome with the giggles. Warning: this happens a lot. If It guesses correctly, everyone laughs and a new It is crowned.

Lupe had no trouble finding Rue because she said Rue’s a heavy breather. Rue thought this was hilarious.

Nacho Man took no prisoners. He’ll do anything to win. He tried to make us laugh so he could ferret us out. He wasn’t above antics such as the Truffle Shuffle or the Chicken Dance, or making exaggerated sniffing noises as though we’re a stinky lot.

We are not necessarily stinky, but we are giggly. Nacho Man knows this. He used it to his advantage.

There are any number of ways to spice this up. You can use frou-frou floor markers. You can have more than four numbers. You can decide that whoever’s It has to guess who’s standing at every number.

But that’s time away from the real fun–playing the game plain and simple.

You can also *invite* your cat to play. But he might choose a corner that isn’t numbered. Don’t bother trying to explain the rules to him. He plays by his own rules.

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