Sunday, May 20, 2018


San Pietro has so many ladybugs. I enjoy their company.


San Pietro before I began working there.

 I can’t express how happy I am in some aspects of my life right now. Ever since I’ve been back in the States I’ve had access to an empty lot of land that my brother and sister in law own. I call it San Pietro, after my brother in law, Peter. But also to remind me of one place my family and I lived in Rome one summer. We rented a little cottage in a jungle hidden right in the middle of Rome, near Vatican City. And walking out of our nestled hideout in the shade of the trees we could see the Basilica of San Pietro looming above us down the street. So, now I have my own little jungle in the middle of Provo, Utah where it seems every last tiny bit of land is being purchased so developers can build some more cookie cutter homes for potential buyers. This little natural area is by no means a jungle. Even though it has tall weeds now that are probably an eyesore to the neighbors, I don’t care. I go to San Pietro at least three times a week to work my ass off and feel my back strain as I wrestle with stubborn rocks in the soil. I like how my body aches and feels like it’s going to crack when I finally stand up straight again. I know the exertion probably contributes to an early physical demise, but I prefer to live fully in the present rather than amble along in mediocrity.

       Yesterday, I forced my whole family to come with me to San Pietro to work. Yep, I forced ‘em. Sometimes I read books that make me feel guilty about forcing my kids to do anything. Like Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I enjoyed the book and I believe what the author is saying, but when it comes to putting that stuff into practice, I crumble, as a lot of other parents do. Well, to my defense I offered no reward to my kids to come and work at San Pietro. No money. No surprises. Actually, I did say that we were going to get Slurpees but in the end we didn’t get them because my husband, a big cheapskate like myself, wanted to wait until 5 pm to get points on our 7-Eleven rewards account. So we passed right by the 7-Eleven at 4:15 PM with the understanding that we would return in the middle of our labors to get our beverages. By 5 PM we were all engrossed in our dirty garden tasks that no one even mentioned any Slurpees or Big Gulps. For those readers who have never stepped into a 7-Eleven convenience store, a Slurpee is a frozen sweet flavored drink that is like pourable snow. There are usually at least four flavors to choose from in each store at a time. A Big Gulp is a large, American version of large, soda or beverage of your choice that you can get yourself from the tap. I go to 7-Eleven for the Slurpees or just because my kids want to. (In the past I’ve tried to act like I’m too good for 7-Eleven, but I’ve come to the realization that I’m not. 7-Eleven is a truly working class American establishment run by lovely Indian people who to me seem very upbeat and hard working. I’m American. I work hard. Therefore, I belong at 7-Eleven when I get sweaty and want a beverage that isn’t water.) They do sell water though. But the only people that buy it are the Americans who don’t really belong to the working class. They kind of accidentally arrive at 7-Eleven because they are from out of town and don’t know where anything else is. Kind of like my relationship with McDonald’s but I’ll explain that another time.

       So, before coming, my oldest son, Atticus, moaned and groaned because he wanted to hang out with his friends. He tried to get out of coming to San Pietro, but I stood firm. The other kids kind of just accepted the idea and didn’t put up a fight. We piled into my in laws’ Subaru Forester because our 7 seater Eurovan is STILL in the shop. There were a few punches between Cincinnatus and Sherman but we got to San Pietro alive. We kind of exploded out of the car like a shaken up bottle of soda. San Pietro is so great for kids because I could see immediately how the kids interacted with the space around them. At home there are walls and flat floors and nothing really pliable that they are allowed to touch and break. At San Pietro they have made pathways in the weeds. Three weeks ago when they all came, I gave Cincinnatus the job of walking back and forth on a set path so there would be a clear path in the future. At that time, the weeds were about a foot high. Yesterday, the weeds were 3 to 4 feet high. The paths have remained and as the kids walked through them I could see their hands reach out and grab the waving weeds. Sherman waved his arms back and forth on them and watched them bend back to their original place. Hansel and Gretel, I mean Helen and Hector, scampered off into the pathways and chattered as they went. Cincinnatus just started walking back and forth, doing his thinking. That’s his main activity, thinking. And Atticus, who didn’t want to be there but is also a very dutiful boy, asked, “What do you want me to do?” I gave them each a job to do and we all completed our jobs without complaint except Sherman. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say, all this outdoor work and activity has made him think seriously about doing better in school. Now he wants to go to Oxford and have some businessman job where he wears nice clothes and works in an office, preferably in England. Maybe he can follow Meghan Markle’s example. He is a little old to be marrying little Charlotte though.

       To tie up all this blabber, I just wanna say that sometimes forcing your kids to work in a garden with their parents is not such a bad thing. They may not see the benefits at that moment, but as a mom, I got to see where their strengths lay. How did they respond to the task? How did they figure out how to do the task if they didn’t know how initially? Did they complain constantly? Did they have a good work ethic? Could they envision the outcome of their labors? Did they work well alone? Could they even stand to be alone for a second? Did they appreciate nature? Could they care less? I learned a lot about each one of my kids during that two hour period.

  • Atticus- he likes using brute force on things, he relishes killing monster weeds, works well alone
  • Sherman- he doesn’t like working in dirt, doesn’t like being alone, doesn’t like being ignored, the only thing he was interested in was the sprinkler system I was setting up
  • Cincinnatus- he likes walking, he likes being alone, he’ll try to do work if he knows how to do it, he gets really frustrated if he doesn’t know how
  • Hector- he has a really short attention span and often forgets what job he was supposed to do, he notices colors, rainbows in the spray of the hose, ladybugs, and admired Helen for finding 25 ladybugs, is scared of touching bugs and dead weeds
  • Helen- loves bugs, not afraid of dirt, really short attention span and doesn’t really like to do hard work but will do small tasks without complaint, loves planting flowers and saving drowning ladybugs, not afraid of getting dirty and touching bugs and weeds

  My kids will probably have no interest in gardening until maybe when they are older, I know. My mom loves gardening and was always involved in her garden. Was always watering her plants and talking about the plants and using their names. I thought it was a hobby for old people. Well, I guess it is, because now I’m almost 40 and now I like gardening.

Helen eating her packed lunch at the garden after school. 

I will “force” my kids to come with me again in two weeks. We’ll see what jobs I can think up for them. By that time my plants will be growing which will add excitement, at least for me and Helen. I’m hoping they will think of their own jobs and want to make or build something on their own. We’ll see.


Jocelyn said...

Awesome share girl; so good to hear a voice from the "old town" ;)

Gayle said...

You are such a good mom.

Kevin said...

You are HILARIOUS! I loved the 7-11 riff. Spot on. Hah! I love hearing about your family and it's so good to know you are 'just down the street' for awhile. I hope we see you guys a ton this summer.