He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Saturday, June 26, 2010

For a rainy (or extra super hot) day...

We've spent a lot of time indoors lately- partly because of the heat here, partly because that's just how life happens sometime, and I thought it would be fun to do a post about some of the toys and indoor activities that my girls (and me!) really enjoy.   Oh, and this post is going to be mostly about specific toys that we enjoy and how the girls play with them.  Yes, we definitely do our share of cooking, crafting etc, but I'll save that for another post....

Marble racing!  When Abbey was a baby I sold Discovery Toys for about 5 months- great product, neat people, not such a great job for me since the point was to make money and I most assuredly did not.  However, I did get some great toys out of the deal and this was one of them.  It's a marble raceway that you take apart and rebuild in a billion different ways.  On a good day it can be hours of entertainment for the girls.  

Here's another shot of the raceway they made on this particular day.  Keep in mind this toy is more than 10 years old so due to a few missing pieces, we use the stairs of their bunk bed to hold it up...

Next favorite item, PLAYMOBILE!  I was completely unaware of the existence of these wonderful toys until we moved to France in 2004.  In the little town just a few minutes from where we lived, there was a Playmobile wearhouse type store.  It literally had every Playmobile toy in existence out in a big wearhouse type space with all the accompanying accessories in bins all around the main item- dollhouses of all shapes and sizes, pirate ships, princess castles, knight sets, grocery store, you name it, they had it set up for the kids to play.  There was a snack area for the parents to sit while the kids played, and of course, you had to walk through their store on the way in and out.  This was our introduction to Playmobile toys, and yes, I admit they are a bit pricey but I am a huge fan.  So detailed and so much fun to set up!  Our first Christmas in France the girls got the Playmobile Grocery Store on Christmas morning.  Jason and I stayed up until all hours laboring to get every sticker pulled off and applied, every little piece (and I mean LOTS of little pieces) in place.  Here's the basic frame:
(Yes, AJ at age 10 still loves getting it out and setting it up...)

And here it is when you get each little piece in place....

A disclaimer here that these toys are definitely for at least age 3 and up (although Playmobile has some great things for little ones too)- we found this out the hard way on that Christmas morning.  Abbey (who was 3 at the time) has always been our details girl- very careful, very meticulous, even in her play.  You can tell, I'm sure, from the way she set up the grocery store above.  Maddie (2.5 at the time of this story) was more like, well, a bull in a china shop.  One of her first phrases was "Fatch this"- this meant she was usually about to cause herself or possibly someone close by physical harm by flinging her body off of a surface or doing something else very precarious.  (oddly enough she is still the only one of the three girls not to have had stitches).  I'm sure you can see where this is going...   Maddie and Abbey came charging down stairs on Christmas morning to find their beloved grocery story all meticulously set up (thanks to the hours of work by mom and dad the night before).  In all of her exuberance, Maddie charges toward the grocery store, and you guessed it, takes a nose dive right into the grocery store knocking plastic laundry detergent containers, grocery carts and fruits and veggies all helter-skelter.  She immediately jumps up seeing all the rest of our looks of dismay and says, "I o-tay, I o-tay!"'  Oh sweet little Maddie, you had enough cushioning  that we weren't the least bit worried about you- we were gasping over the poor grocery store!  Thankfully, playmobile toys are quite resilient though and we had it put back together pretty quick...
Here's the little tub-o-luv...How could we stay mad for long??

We now have quite a collection of Playmobile toys and the great thing is so many of them are interchangeable.  We build entire playmobile villages somedays and again, on a good day, it can provide hours of entertainment.
Here's the girls most recent- an ice cream shop

Next item, wooden blocks combined with just about anything!  Before we moved overseas, my mom got us a great set of wooden blocks- you know the kind they always had in the church nurseries growing up??  (I know as a good blogger I would provide you with the link to the place where she got them, but I have absolutely no idea- pretty sure it was an educational supply place- can let you know if interested...) Anyway, I was so wrong to think they would just be a toddler thing!  Abbey and Maddie (almost 11 and almost 9) still use them for building villages for pollypockets, playmobile, littlest pet shop.  

Here's a "store" they set up for their Polly Pockets (another favorite activity)

(the plane in the background was Naomi's Christmas present last year- I ordered it and had it sent to Jason's mom and failed to look at the dimensions.  I was thinking it would be around the size of that old Fisher Price plane- NOT!  oops...)

And yes, we have collected A LOT of polly pockets over the years, thanks to grandparents, garage sales etc but with three girls and no backyard it has been GREAT!!

Here's Naomi playing "zoo" with some of the playmobile things and the blocks

And, of course, with our wonderful blocks, there have been many castles over the years...
Some more elaborate...

...than others

(I love this of Naomi and Papa..)

We've definitely gotten our money's worth out of those blocks- thanks Mom!!

On a more spiritual note, another of our favorite things for lots of reasons is our Betty Lukens Bible story felt set.  This was a gift from the WMU group at one of our partner church and we have LOVED it so much.  THere are a bazillion felt pieces that you cut out and arrange on the big blue cardboard and then they store neatly under the bed or on top of a book shelf or something.  We got three backdrop boards as well.  

Ours goes through the Old and New Testaments giving the Scripture reference for each story and re-telling it in a way that's simple for kids.  You can use the book version or the Scripture.  It also tells you which felt pieces to use for each story.  We have so much fun with this.  Here is the story of Jesus getting left behind at the Temple when he was 12.

The girls also love to "play felt board" which I don't always let them do because there are so many pieces that are kind of hard to put back up, but every once in a while after our morning Bible story they do it and it's always a treat.

Hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into our playtimes!  Let us know what some of your fave rainy/hot day activities are! 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where there's a will....

We had the opportunity to escape last weekend to a great hotel in the south of our country.  It was an extra special treat because of the grass (very rare here) and the beautiful landscaping (another rare thing) surrounding the kiddy pool and playground area.  There were plenty of wide open spaces for the kids to run around, a kiddy pool with a fountain in the middle (not turned on in the picture), a basketball court,

a big pool complete with lap lanes, high and low dives and a water slide..

The high dive reminded me of our summers growing up at the YMCA pool back when high dives weren't such a huge insurance risk.  Our girls were thrilled and fearless.

Maddie even learned to dive off of the high dive.  Unfortunately the day I had my camera at the pool her legs were sore (from smacking so many times probably), so she was done diving off the high dive, but I got a picture of her low diving board dive.

It was great fun for all of us in beautiful surroundings.

So why is this post titled, "Where there's a will..."??  Well, I mentioned the waterslide...  The kids were all thrilled when they saw it.  Unfortunately for them, the hotel was on generator our first afternoon/evening there.  For those of you unfamiliar with overseas life, that means that the regular supplies electricity was cut and everything was running off generator and when that is the case, only certain electrical things can be run without blowing a circuit.  Well apparently the pump for the waterslide that made it "slideable" by making water gush down it from the top, used to much electricity to be run while on generator, so the waterslide was not used that first afternoon.

Notice I didn't say that the waterslide was closed.  Yes, the door to climb up the steps to enter the waterslide the normal way was closed.  However, like I said, when there's a will, there's a way.  You see, safety precautions, and well, rules in general, are somewhat optional around here.  The kids soon had there own plan figured out that kept them entertained for hours, and with plenty of adults around to supervise, we thought, "why not?".  Here's how it worked....

Step one:  climb onto the bottom of the slide

Step 2:  Fill a water bottle (they actually had two or three with pool water)
Step 3:  Make your way up the slide while pouring water from the bottle back down the slide to get it wet

(just a note here that Naomi was required to crawl the last little bit of the climb up)

Step 4:  Enjoy the ride down!
there was a bit of a log jam at the bottom, as they never really got going that fast, but they still loved it!

All in all the waterslide was only officially "open" for about 30 minutes of our entire weekend, but thanks to the kids ingenuity (and the lack of rules), they enjoyed it for a lot longer and we never heard a complaint about it not working!

Choose your battles

Anyway of you with young kids, especially those of the strong-willed variety, have probably discovered like I have the wisdom in the words, "choose your battles".  One day this week, I needed to go to the store as we were having a crowd over and I told Naomi and Maddie they could go with me.  They are not yet old enough to realize that going to the grocery store is NOT a treat, something Abbey has already discovered!!  Anyway, when Naomi got dressed and presented herself as ready to go, I decided this was a battle that I was not going to fight.  The hat, she explained, was because she is pinkalicious (as if I should even wonder otherwise), and the gloves were to keep her hands from getting cold in the very chilly store.  Sounds like four year old logic to me!  So off we went to the store with Jason simply shaking his head behind us that I would subject myself to even more stares than we already attract as foreigners.  My explanation?  Naomi was thrilled, and this was a battle not worth fighting...

(and yes, in case you wondered, she always oozes with personality...)

She loves that they have kid carts available..

Here we are in the checkout line.  Yep, the gloves and hat stayed on the whole trip- one of my prerequisites for allowing her to go like that...

Like clay in the hand of the potter Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience visiting a potter in a local village down in the south of our country.  http://pinklaundry-kelli.blogspot.com/2010/05/like-clay-in-hand-of-potter.html.  To the left is a picture of some of my finds.  One is used by the locals to mash herbs and the other is for drinking water.  This particular piece of pottery is "magic".  It's made with a hole both in the top and in the bottom.  However, when you pour water in the top, it doesn't come out the bottom and vice versa.  Even if you hold it upside down the water doesn't come out.  It will however pour out the little opening on the side.  Let me be the first to confess that I have not at all mastered the art of drinking out of one of these.  They hold it up above their mouths and pour in the water.  Actually, they do the same thing with water bottles as well.  That way they can share.  Each and every time I have attempted said skill, I end up with water running down my front and very little in my mouth...  Anyway, I digress.  I wanted you to see the beautiful pieces I bought last time and then tell you the rest of the story. 

As wonderful of an experience as it was, I was sad that Jason and the girls weren't with me.  Last weekend, along with some other friends, the whole family was able to go back and visit our potter friend and once again see him at work.  (for the precious pictures of this man performing his skill see the link above).  We got to see some different things this time that we didn't see before.  Below is the daughter of the potter busy at work painting the completed pots.  They gave Naomi one that was chipped to paint with her.
You can't see it very well, but for her paint, she is simply using a bowl of clay-like rocks that they dug up and added some water to for the deep, reddish brown color.  What you can't see well is the variety of handmade paint brushes that she is using to decorate.  

Naomi was very happy for the opportunity to get in on the action... (notice the beautifully painted pieces that the daughter had already completed just in the 10 minutes we had been there- it was absolutely amazing how fast she worked)
Jason had the brilliant idea to buy some pieces that were unpainted so that we could bring them home for the budding artists in our family to work on.  Maddie and Naomi were thrilled (Abbey I'm sure was somewhere with a book and not interested in being artsy...)

Now I have even more beautiful pottery to add to my collection!

Wadi Walk

The content for this post has been swimming around in my head for two months now.  We had such an incredible experience that I wanted to share, but up until now I really haven't had the time to sit down and do it justice.  I know I still won't adequately capture our adventure that day, but I wanted to give it a shot. 

Two months ago, Jason and I traveled sans kids to a neighboring country for some meetings.  In the midst of the busy-ness, we were able to get away as a group to the beautiful countryside for a "walk in the wadi".  Wadi is in Arabic word that roughly translated means riverbed or valley.  The bookends for our walk as a group (what we discussed before and after as well as what we focused on as we walked) were the verses from Deuteronomy 8- the entire chapter.  It was truly the perfect backdrop for the perfect day.  Like I said, I'm sure I can't adequately capture our experience, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of our walk as well as the lessons learned as we took in the beautiful scenery. 

We began by driving about three hours out of the city out into the dessert.  We were all prepared for a 5-6 mile hike through the dessert that would be taking up most of the next day.  We arrived at a Bedouin camp in the dessert right at sunset where we would be spending the night and beginning our hike the next morning.  

Here are the tents that we spent the night in.  At least for the night we had "bathroom facilities" (notice the concrete building towards the back)

For those of you who have never spent the night in a Bedouin tent, let me tell you it was COLD!!  Even though it was close to 85 degrees or so during the day, once that sun went behind the hills, it got pretty chilly.  We slept on foam mattresses on the ground in our burlap tents.  Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the inside.

Early the next morning we loaded in 4 wheel drive vehicles and went about 30 minutes farther away to the point where we would begin our walk.  Here we are overlooking the dessert lands we were about to hike into.  It was ruggedly beautiful yet even from this view, we were clueless as to the beauty we would be seeing throughout the rest of our hike. 

We walked for 30 minutes to an hour through the rocky dessert.  Here is our first view of the wadi we were descending into.  There is a small stream that you can barely see, but you know it's there due to the beautiful flowers and bushes thriving around it.  

So you don't think we were a group of clueless Americans making our way through the wilderness, not to worry, we had a very patient Bedouin guide who forged the trail for us.  Here he is climbing over rocks, making his way along the stream picking out the best route for us to take.  We followed this small stream throughout most of the rest of the day.  In places it disappeared completely only to reappear a few minutes later.  In places it widened to where we had to work not to get our feet wet, but it was constantly there. 

Here we are making our way into the beginning of the wade and enjoying the vegetation that we are suddenly surrounded by. 

The pink oleander was so beautiful.

As we walked on, our surrounding became more canyon like.  

Someone from our group, got brave and climbed up to take an aerial shot of us.  Yes, that is some of us walking through the canyon.

The scenery as the rock walls got closer and closer together was absolutely breathtaking.  Notice the patterns on the rock.  At any point we could look up and see flowers, even trees occasionally sprouting out of the rocks high above.  I'm just gonna be quiet now and let God show off a little.  Enjoy the show...

(below I wanted to give you an idea of how high the canyon walls were...)

At the end of the day, it was so amazing to be able to reflect on Deuteronomy 8 and the promised land God led His people into.  This was our view as we sat under a tree at the end of the day waiting for the bus to come and pick us up.  The green color of the hills is due to the copper that has been mined for centuries out of these very hills.  Amazing.  Thanks Lord, for the view of your majesty and the way you fulfill your promises.

Deuteronomy 8 :7-9  "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land-- a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills."

So I can't just leave it at that!  I want you to also experience some of the rich discussions we had along the way and some of the lessons God taught us as we walked and considered His word.  

First, we were expected a hike through the desert- barren brown hills and rocky crags.  We didn't expect the rugged beauty that we ended up surrounded by.  In our lives today, God wants to surprise us with His beauty- with a harvest of souls.  What are our expectations for His work in our lives?  Are we ready to be amazed by what He will do and are we expecting to see His beauty and His glory?  Barren places can bear beautiful fruit!  Are we ready for the harvest that can come from some of the most barren places in the world??

On that note, often we cannot see the beauty of a place when we are looking in from the outside.  Just like when we first began our walk, we could only see the brown hills, none of the beauty within was beautiful.  God is already working in some of the most barren places and His beauty is taking root.  Pray for those streams in the dessert, those flowers in the wilderness- people who are blooming for Jesus in some of the darkest places of the world.  

Finally, our walk in God's wilderness took much concentration.  A slight misstep could send you sliding down a rock or splashing into the stream.  When God takes us into the wilderness in our lives, often it is to fine tune our concentration and awareness of who He is and what he wants to do.  When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 a passage we are all familiar with saying that man does not live on bread alone.  In studying this passage of Scripture as we took our walk, God showed me this verse in a new light.  It says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."  God's method of teaching the people that man does not live on bread alone but on God's word, was by providing for their needs in a completely unique and unexpected way.  Praise Him that He is always ready to teach us something new and defy our expectations!