Thankfully, everyone survived long enough for me to think of a way to keep the unruly crew entertained while still spending time outside soaking in one of the most beautiful brisk fall days.
This is what we came up with: treasure hunt leaf necklaces. Each sweet whiny child got a bag, and was sent off to collect leaves from around the yard. After they all had a good stash of 10 or so leaves, I used a hole-puncher to make a hole in each leaf, then gave them each a piece of string to thread the leaves on as beads. The necklaces turned out beautifully and--most importantly--kept everyone happy, including me. Fighting ceased for a full 45 minutes. (Almost) no whining was heard, and the first necklace didn't break until just before nap time.
PS- don't let the stern expressions fool you, it was fun, ok :)