In the beginning of summer 2011, we took on our first big family project ever: develop our 160-square-meter vacant lot into our very own beautiful garden. Our initial plans were pretty modest: have the area landscaped, maybe add a small nipa hut and a swing or slide for the kids. My in-laws, who live next door, joined in the fun—and costs (woohoo!).
From these modest plans, however, the project began to take on a life of its own. Suddenly, Manang had her small vegetable garden in one corner, right across the bamboo plants I’ve always wanted. On top of the old bodega, which we semi-renovated, my in-laws had the wonderful idea of constructing a deck. We filled it with hanging plants and now our sharpei, Parker, has claimed that area and turned it into his own watchtower. Between the nipa hut and bodega-slashdeck, my father-in-law and my husband Marc, who used to manage fish farms, now have their own play place: a small, sustainable fish pond with golden tilapias and koi.
Almost every week, something new is happening in the garden. Which means, almost every weekend, we find ourselves assembling in the garden, thinking of what to do next. (“Oh, we still have space for Natalia’s playhouse!” Check.) There is no rhyme or reason to how we plan and build things. Most days, it’s out of sheer whim; other days, just out of plain curiosity. “You think we can build a slide going down the deck and landing on the side of the hut?” Marc asked the other day. I told him it was too high and too dangerous and vetoed the idea—but not before I actually imagined my nine-year-old sliding down a great big slide across the pond.
To this day, we’re still not done with the garden. And I don’t think we’ll ever be done. My husband and I always rationalize the costs by saying that we’re building something beautiful for the family. And we are. Pio has fallen in love with the pond and enjoys feeding the fish and cleaning up after them. Hmm… how about putting up a signpost that says “Pio’s Fish Farm?” Check.
With the busy lives we lead every day, we all could use a little garden. My husband and I work together in our own business, and our time in our garden helps us de-stress and, in a way, enjoy the benefits we reap for working very hard five days of the week. In that garden, we don’t think of pending projects, client e-mails, and story deadlines (ahem). In that garden, we take in the best breeze city living can offer and enjoy the sight of our crazy ideas coming into fruition.
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In that garden, we find simple joys in eating Sunday breakfast al fresco, watching Pio play football and our two-year-old parading around in her pink gum boots (“There are worms, Mommy!”)—or performing her own “pole dance” around the hut’s bamboo pole.
In that garden, we all have genuine fun… and we genuinely enjoy each other. As busy, multitasking parents, moments like these are all we could truly ask for. But sadly, these moments are never handed to us on a silver platter. We have to make them happen. You don’t need 160 square meters; you just need resolve.
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Never would I have thought that adding just a few trees and some potted plants in our home could have such a vast and wonderful effect on our family dynamics and relationships. We’ve created something beautiful for the family—and we’ve built something beautiful within the family, too. And like I said, we’re still not done building. This year, there are bound to be more plants, more side projects, more pets, more crazy ideas. Who knows? That great big slide might even find its way into our garden.
That’s the game plan. Build beautiful and awesome things. Build reasons for the family to come together and enjoy weekends of fun. Build moments and memories. Build relationships. Build a happy family.
Vicky Montenegro is mom to two kids. Together with her husband, she runs a creative studio Curious Creative Agency.
This article originally appeared in the January-February 2012 issue of Smart Parenting magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.