Initially, my husband and I decided there would be no weapons given to our children. We wouldn't allow them to play cowboys and Indians, army, or cops and robbers. I think our oldest son was 2 years old when we noticed while he was playing with friends his hand would suddenly become misshapen. It would be poised at his hips, thumb and forefinger extended. Suddenly they would fling up and shout, "Stick 'em up!"

After discussing the new phenomenon that occurred in our home, Steve and I decided to allow hunting-only activities. For some reason, shooting at imaginary deer or bears wasn't nearly as much fun when all your friends were pointing their fingers at you!

Again Steve and I decided to powwow and come up with a new solution. In the meantime, Steve had asked my dad to get him a BB gun for Christmas. I simply rolled my eyes - in a submissive way, of course.

One day Steve came home with one of his favorite toys: a squirt gun. He didn't bring home just one, though. He brought one for every member of the family. And guess what? We aimed them at one another, hiding behind doors, crouching behind the couch, and basically acting like infantry.

That was when I figured out our problem. Steve was a trained officer in the Air Force. The military seemed to be in his blood. I also was trained in the military. Our children were getting a double whammy of military blood. And Steve really did look cute crouching behind the couch with his water pistol loaded for action waiting for some unsuspecting victim to pass his way.

After another powwow, we decided that as long as we always instructed them on safety issues, and the only reasons to ever use a real gun, and continually educated them in armaments, we would now allow pretend weaponry.

David received for his birthday that year a fake shotgun, two handguns in a holster, four fake bullets, a roll of caps, and a tin sheriff's badge. David and Steve had loads of fun playing together.

Squirt guns became commonplace in our home, securing their own spot beneath the bathroom sink.

I'll never forget the day we had visitors - you know the type - the ones with a bunch of perfectly dressed children. This was THE mom to impress. As I was busy impressing her, Steve emerged from the bathroom, fully loaded. Peeking behind the door, he reached the nuzzle of his gun, and shot me, soaking my left arm. The water ricocheted off my arm and splashed my impressive friend in the face. I quickly jumped off the couch, forgetting my mission to impress my friend. With lightening speed I loaded my own high-powered squirt gun. Steve had meanwhile gone to hide. I was certain he was crouching behind the couch so I unloaded my weapon on a poor unsuspecting 2-year-old.

My friend told me that this kind of activity would never be allowed in her house. I noted a tinge of remorse in her words. "How sad," I thought to myself, "to not be allowed to play in your own house in a way that is just so much fun."

Fast-forwarding a few years ...

The other night I was visiting my impressive friend, who incidentally has grown even more impressive now that I've stopped trying to impress her. She couldn't wait to show me something her children had received. Then she revealed the "weapon." The weapon was made of PVC pipe and was powered by bursts of air from the operator. When the weapon was loaded, it shot a marshmallow clear across the room, barely missing the unsuspecting 2-year-old.

The next day I just had to have one for myself. Actually, I wanted one for each member of our family. I couldn't stand the thought of a simple battle; I wanted to enact a full-scale war.