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Ancient History

Saturday Siblings ~ Water Balloon Warriors

It started small on Sam’s 14th birthday and grew into a battle that not only included balloons, they busted out the squirt guns. We hauled everything down to a the park at the end of our street so they’d have room to spread out.

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BEFORE

BEFORE

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The kids were split into three teams. They picked up all the water balloon bits from the grass. The winning team would get a prize. I decided it was a tie, so everyone got slushies from Sonic.

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“Planes: Fire and Rescue” Saves the Day

About a year ago, I wrote a review for Disney’s Planes. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about it and neither were my kids. The story was stale, but the animation was superb, especially in 3D. I wasn’t alone feeling this way. Despite poor reviews of the first Planes movie, Disney charged ahead with the second, which was already in production. The summer of 2014 brings everyone a chance to revisit Propwash Junction’s favorite conflicted, navel-gazing plane, Dusty Crophopper. But does anyone want to?

planesfireandrescue53399bca5e0d9Fresh off the mountaintop of a world championship win, Dusty finds himself back in his home turf with his friends. It’s clear he doesn’t intend to retire from the racing circuit. During one of the training runs with his loveably gruff coach, Skipper, something goes terribly wrong. Planes: Fire and Rescue follows Dusty as he grapples with disappointment and forges a new identity of sacrifice and outright bravery. No longer pursuing personal glory, Dusty learns to find a higher purpose in the face of terrifying danger.

That sounds like heavy stuff, and it is. But it’s still a Disney kids’ movie, so there are plenty of new funny characters and the animation remains superb. Planes: Fire and Rescue is far better than the original. I was bracing myself for 84 minutes of torture, but I found myself enjoying a pretty compelling story. Compelling? Yep. I don’t know what happened, but for the first time in American cinema history, the sequel far outshines the original and I am actually recommending a trip to the movie theater. I took Teddy, who is almost four. He adored it, but he adored the box of popcorn and the 3D glasses because it was his first trip to a movie theater. Archie, age five, loved it as well. The true test? I took my 15-year-old son and he was pleasantly surprised. He’d seen the first because we rented it, thought it was OMG lame, and groaned when I told him he was going with us to the sequel. He probably thought he was being punished.

As we walked out of the theater, he said, “That was pretty good!”

Don’t let the title scare you off. It seems as though it was created solely with four-year-old boys (and their Christmas lists) in mind, but it’s actually a smart salute to those who protect forest lands, residents, and visitors from devastating fires that plague the western US every summer. The pacing is perfect with humor and much sharper writing than the original. Yeah, it’s predictable for adults, but what Disney movie ends with the main character failing spectacularly, leaving sorrow and ruin in their wake? None. One truly funny stretch of the movie is a bone thrown to Gen X parents in the audience. Two words: Erik. Estrada.

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens on Friday, July 18th in theaters. It’s rated PG, most likely for some intense scenes of forest fires and characters in peril.

Ten signs you should have a big family

1. Noise makes you feel happily energized.

Sometimes, at dinner, it gets so loud my husband and I stare at each other in wonder. Mindful the Queen of England would be horrified, we encourage taking turns when conversing. But we don’t expect all eleven of us to share in the same conversations night after night. Sometimes, two or three people will be discussing one thing. Let’s say it’s regarding the Mario Bros. mustaches. A few more will discuss some other topic, like Memories of Shots they received, with an emphasis on where. Another group will be attempting to talk about the ramifications of a Supreme Court ruling. All these conversations are worthwhile and valuable. Sure, they could wait for later, but the danger in that is I’ll forget all about why Luigi’s facial hair is superior.

2. Filling out paperwork is relaxing.

If you have the proper tools, completing paperwork is an utterly satisfying hobby. Is there anything better than writing block letters with a buttery-inked velvet black pen that won’t smudge? School registrations and health histories are sadly becoming digitized, though. I suppose if you love long drop-down menus and hitting the tab button 124 times, then NEXT, it’s comparable.

3. You have the thick skin of an alpha alligator.

When you announce your fourth child is on the way, people get weird. Gone are the happy congratulations. Instead, you get asked if was “planned” or “an accident” and if you reply neither, woe unto you. But then, after child #7 or #8, people have figured out you are just a weirdo and simply sigh.

Every time our whole family goes to Boulder, Colorado, we get the nastiest stares and reactions. People have pointed at us, turned to each other, and sneered while shaking their heads. Yet we return, which either means we are fools or part alligator. Just a few days ago, we were at a Boulder county membership warehouse. I’ll call it Lostco. When my husband ordered eleven hot dogs and eleven fountain drinks, the clerk shouted, “ELEVEN!?” and groaned. He turned to a coworker and tersely shared the misfortune that had befallen him: “ELEVEN!” Poor, poor soul, having to assemble eleven cylindrical units of mystery meat in eleven split buns, then count eleven cups. We have a lot of audacity.

4. An odd, inexplicable feeling someone is missing.

I can recall several moments when I looked around at the family and had a sudden, weird panicky feeling: Who was missing? I’d count everyone and couldn’t shake the idea someone else was supposed to be with us. This sounds mystical and airy-fairy, the stuff of dippy hippies spinning in meadows of marijuana, but it happened more than once.

5. Because after five kids, it doesn’t matter how many you have. So go for it.

If you have to put food on seven plates, an eighth won’t seem like a revolutionary change. If you’re washing the clothing of eight people, adding another person doesn’t make much of a ripple. You already live in front of the washer and dryer, even if they are large capacity. One of the main criteria I had when we got our new washer was the size of the tub. It’s a high-efficiency top-loader with no center agitator. There are farm towns out on the eastern plains of Colorado who wish they had a water tower as big as our washing machine. I still have to do laundry every day, but since the extra-large capacity washer came into our lives I twitch less.

Also, righteous mother's jewelry!

Also, righteous mother’s jewelry!

6. Giant vehicles are easy and fun for you to drive.

My first car was a pale yellow, two door Subaru hatchback named Buttercup. Each subsequent car was bigger, taller, heavier until now, I could fit a two door Subaru hatchback in the back of my van with all the seats removed. It’s kind of like a full circle moment if you think about it. Anyway, it’s empowering driving a massive vehicle through traffic with skill. It’s fun to park, open the side barn doors, and watch person after person spill out. I see tiny Smart Cars and think about how our single van can transport the same number of people as seven and a half of those sweet little toys. I cannot, however, park in the grocery cart chute.

7. Unique hopes, hobbies, and dreams for your kids.

We can’t sign up each of our kids in an expensive traveling soccer league. We just can’t. That’s okay. Our lives are a team sport. We can buy lots of paper and art supplies. We can sing together. We can go hiking in the mountains and we can download guitar tutorials. There are ten bicycles in our garage, many obtained at Goodwill in excellent condition. I submit our kids are extremely well-rounded because we can’t afford to channel our funds into singular, more expensive activities and lessons. They have tons of freedom because I simply can’t—and won’t—schedule them to death. If you dream of creating a family of soccer superstars and spending your lives on green fields, having a huge family isn’t for you unless you know how to bend the laws of space and time and can be at 5 soccer games at once.

Also, it helps to live in Colorado where we can spread out a bit and have a zillion outdoorsy places to visit for free or practically free.

8. You like fun.

I’ve said it a million times. Having birthdays, pretty much every month, plus holidays and other reasons to celebrate, is awesome. There is always someone to play with. Water balloon fights are epic. Setting up a tent takes about 30 seconds because there are so many helpers. It takes less time to do chores because when a couple are cleaning the kitchen, some in the living room, some in the basement, some doing bathrooms, simultaneously, it’s done much faster. Less work time = more play time for dance parties, more down time for zoning out to Calvin and Hobbes. I get to play Tooth Fairy for nine people! Santa for nine! The Easter Bunny for nine! I’m going to get to spend over 30 years of my life, from the birth of my first child to the adulthood of my last, getting to spring fun surprises on the kids and creating magic.

9. But work doesn’t scare you.

There are so many diapers. So many over-the-top involved school projects. So many pregnancies (if that’s how you choose to build your family). There are more expenses. There are more people to worry about and more that can go wrong on any given day. Ben Franklin said it best: “He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too.” Yep, your heart will pound more than the average heart.

Also, taking photos of your kids together makes your blood pressure zoom to 210/130. The wise parent with the camera gives up after 10 shots and goes with it.

10. Because you want to.

Some people dream of having a huge family from childhood. Others have no idea they want a big family until the kids showed up. When my husband and I got married, we thought we’d have more than one, less than five? Maybe? We’d see who rolled in. I believe not having a set number locked in stone made it easier to open our arms to more and more. I’ve always said I never knew what I was going to have for lunch when I woke up on a given day, how would I know what profound moments were going to happen? Or who I’d meet?