This is a story about making lemonade. Lemonade from lemons you’ve been handed, to be exact.

I made him the bow and arrow, but I didn’t think he’d actually be able to shoot it at four years old! Now to set some ground rules…

Apartment life in a capital city located on a peninsula where every space is filled makes finding good play areas for our kids a challenge. We do have an air-quotes-yard, but it’s a far cry from the lush, leafy green yards my husband and I grew up with in Iowa and Cote d’Ivoire. So while I am thankful that we at least have some open space, that’s about all it is. Hard red dirt, a few seashells and potted plants, a scattering of twigs and pebbles and crazy amounts of trash that magically appear daily.

We do have a couple trees, but they aren’t really good for much except shade. (Not that I take shade for granted, especially in hot season.) But this week in an effort to… I don’t even know what… the trees were hacked way back and now are basically just stumps or trunks. The one tree that we claimed as ‘ours’ and put swings in for our kids and the neighborhood talibé boys to play on was left alone, thankfully. But everything else got hacked.

Sidenote: I’m told that the trees get hacked so far back because part of the arrangement with the workers includes that they can sell any wood they cut. So why not hack off all you can? I’m also told these workers are sometimes prisoners sent out to earn money. I decided not to spend time verifying that one.

Who needs a playroom or a yard when you have a balcony + tree parts?

Before they could haul all the trees and wood off, my husband (quick thinker that he is) pulled out a few key logs and branches and brought them upstairs. At first I was a little horrified at the mess and the tree branches filling the balcony, but it really was a genius idea. The kids love it! They’ve been peeling off bark, making a bow and arrows, playing campfire… It’s literally nature at our sliding-doorstep.

A cooler filled with tools and weapons and spare plumbing parts. #pinterestthis
We made arrows from twigs and duct tape. What else??
A giant bag of seashells was a very worthwhile investment. The kids play with them all the time.
There she is. Right on my balcony.