One time I was at a playground with my young sons and a woman came striding up, briskly pushing a jogging stroller. She stopped, ordered her kid to hop out, and proceeded to do some stretches. Then she clapped her hands together and shouted, “Go run around! There’s another kid – chase him! Go! Go! Go! Move it!” She may have had a whistle around her neck and a stopwatch, or maybe I imagined that.

Regardless, this woman managed to completely suck the fun out of an afternoon at the playground within seconds. Here are some sure-fire tips for following in her footsteps and ruining time with your family:

1) Call it “quality time.” Not hanging out, not spending the day together, but Quality Time with a capital QT. This will infuse it with extra angst and expectations. Also, be sure to announce piously to everyone you meet that on Sunday you’re spending Quality Time with your family. You should post it on Facebook and Instagram it, too.

2) Cite studies proclaiming its importance. Quote statistics on how much outdoor time children should get per day, and how many teen pregnancies and drug addictions can be prevented by regular family dinners, and how technology is ruining our society. Bonus points for pulling out some pie-charts showing how little vacation time Americans get compared to other countries.

3) Make your expectations sky-high. For instance, insist on getting the perfect snapshot for your Easter e-newsletter with all of your family members in matching pastel outfits. That way when your son refuses to wear anything but ripped jeans and an Angry Birds T-shirt and the tulips aren’t blooming yet, your day will be ruined.

4) Set strict guidelines and refuse to alter them. You MUST go that ONE particular park at the EXACT time of day you had in mind. There’s traffic and it’s a little chilly and the kids would rather play Legos at home? No way! Mom has planned Quality Time at the park. Hup, two!

5) Tell your family they’re doing it wrong. No, no! Come ON, guys, we didn’t come here to play tag or sword-fight with sticks. We came here to get our allotted outdoor time and tip-toe through the tulips in nice clothes you can’t get dirty and make everyone think we’re the perfect family! What is WRONG with you?!

a perfect family snapshot in SpringIn NO WAY have I EVER committed any of these heinous Momzilla acts on my lovely family. We just happen to enjoy every moment of leisure time together, which we choose to spend on enriching activities we find mutually agreeable. Except for when those freakin’ tulips and my crazy kids ruin everything…

READ O’ THE DAY: As a “Modern Family” fan, and also a person who had to read Marshall McLuhan’s book in grad school, I found this 2011 NYT article hugely interesting. I can honestly say I never noticed all the technology, or thought about who was filming the “mockumentary.” Did you?

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Young Woman Sitting Looking at Laptop ScreenSocial media is simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to writers. The best because:

a) it gives you an instant audience of readers,

b) it lets you cut through the red tape and do stuff like publish and promote your own blog or ebook, and

c) it lets you connect with people all over the world, from a blog reader in India, to an editor in NYC, to a fellow writer in your own hometown. Even for the most outgoing among us, writing is a solitary pursuit, and social media makes it easier to interact with others.

On the other hand, social media may be the worst thing to happen to writers because:

a) it’s a distraction from writing and can be a huge time-suck if you let it,

b) most a lot of writers are not very self-promotional by nature and these days you’re pretty much required to be your own PR and marketing team on social media, and

c) it can be like shouting into the wind. There’s just so MUCH content out there. How on earth is anyone going to find your blog/take the time to read, let alone comment on, your writing/share or interact any further than clicking a “like” button?

Lately, social media feels very shallow to me. I KNOW. Blasphemy! I’m an old-school blogger. I love me some Twitter. I’m in a show that grew out of blogging and social media. But this is exactly WHY. Listen to Your Mother is so appealing and unusual because it’s live. Yup, it features real-life people doing real-time readings of their own words on an actual stage.

I’m not gonna lie: I know it requires effort to attend a show. You have to get dressed, buy tickets, drive somewhere, maybe even get a babysitter. The last 2 years I drove round-trip 3+ hours to attend the DC-area show in Northern Virginia on a Sunday afternoon. That’s a lot of time and effort. And a lot of listening to my husband moan/gloat about how he had the kids by himself ALL DAY LONG. (Hmm, what’s that like?)

But it was so, so worth it. And here’s where it gets tricky to explain. I tried to in this post. But some people still got the impression that the show’s like open-mic night at the coffee shop, or a downer filled with emotional birth stories. It is nothing like that. Oh, there might be some birth stories. But these are REAL WRITERS. These are STRONG WOMEN. These are people with LIFE STORIES. If you don’t laugh, cry, and see life differently when you walk out of that theater, I will personally refund your ticket price. Of which 25% goes to CHARITY, I might add.

But you know what one of the best parts about going to see Listen to Your Mother was for me? It made me feel things. It made me feel like a part of something larger. It made me feel like I am not alone, and I am lucky, and I am so grateful to know there are other people out there who get it and are struggling and celebrating and laughing and crying right along with me every day.

Let’s be honest: motherhood is a monotonous, isolating gig at times. So many times I have felt like nothing more than a milk cow, a diaper-changer, a laundry-doer, and a snack-server. I love my children and I love my life, but my Lord, there have been times I wanted to bash my head against the wall if I had to endure one more reading of the farm machines board book, one more evening of my husband falling asleep on the couch during “Elementary,” one more random stranger in the grocery store urging me to “enjoy every minute,” one more Facebook post from a shiny, happy childless couple living it up on a vacation I can no longer afford because of preschool tuition and swimming lessons. (#jealous)

But that brings me back to the social media thing. If we’re not careful, I fear that we’ll become a generation of isolated people who only know each other by our Instagram accounts and how we choose to portray ourselves on Twitter. People who are too busy to attend a live show in their own town when they can just follow along on Facebook and wait for the YouTube video. I’m sorry if that sounds finger-waggy, but I’ve been that person. I didn’t go to the conference or go on the trip or get tickets for the thing because it was too expensive, too much of a hassle, too far outside my comfort zone. But I didn’t do that with LTYM, either attending it or being in it. And I’m so, so glad.

If you can join me on Sat. April 26 from 6-7:30pm in Baltimore, please do. The cast will all be available to mix and mingle after the show. Real people, with real life stories, in the flesh. It’s so much better than Facebook. And if you can’t, I urge you to try something different, just for kicks. Whether it’s leaving your phone at home when you go on a coffee run, striking up a conversation with a person in line at the supermarket, or doing something totally out of character and out of your routine – going to a movie solo, knocking on the new neighbors’ door – do it. You’ll be happy you did.

RANDOM ASSOCIATION O’ THE DAY: I can’t write “social media is the worst thing to happen to writers” and not think of “Video Killed the Radio Star.” My friend’s 3yo daughter had a lot of questions about that song. “Who’s the radio star? And why was she killed? And HOW was she killed?”

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Flashback Friday: Not Company Men — Er, Boys

April 11, 2014

Another blogger posted recently about older children trying to parent their younger siblings, and it reminded me of this post from my archives. Or maybe it was the stampeding through the house naked and using inside voices part that made me think of it. No matter. Enjoy! Not Company Men — Er, Boys The other […]

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6 Not So Hidden Reasons Why My Mind Is So Busy

April 9, 2014

This made me laugh: I clicked on an article titled “3 Hidden Reasons Why Your Mind Is So Busy.” But before I could even make it through the first paragraph, I got distracted by the following things. (Psst, click the image and it will load bigger if you’re having trouble reading my notes.) Now, part […]

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A Special Day

April 7, 2014

My 7yo son was home sick one day last week. Nothing serious, just enough to keep him out of school for the day. He’s rarely sick. At first I worried about how I would get my work done. But I quickly realized that having a second-grader around is NOTHING like having a preschooler around. First […]

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Things Preschoolers Say

April 2, 2014

“Just chipping away at some ice I froze in a cup while wearing a helmet. As one does.” Why he didn’t eat his lunch: “My cheese stick wasn’t cold enough.” “My kiwi tasted like the stem.” “I couldn’t open my yogurt.” (This from a kid who will tear into a wrapped candy with his teeth […]

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Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run

March 31, 2014

I bailed on the 5K. I had the best intentions. And it pains me to admit that. But it just didn’t work out. It takes a lot for me to get out of my warm bed at 6:45am on a Sunday, OK? And I am not a huge fan of running under any circumstances, let […]

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What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

March 28, 2014

“What did you want to be when you were my age, Mom?” asked my second-grader one evening. I paused and thought a moment. “Well, I’m not sure. I liked to read, like you do. I actually used to draw my own comics, too. Did you know that? And I liked to dance, too.” “Really? Wow, […]

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We Can Do Hard Things

March 24, 2014

“We can do hard things.” I pinned this quote to my vision board on Pinterest a while back. I like the simplicity of it, and the boost of self-confidence it gives me. It’s true: I CAN do hard things. I’ve done them before and I’ll do them again. Of course, there are different kinds of […]

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Happiness and the Adventures of a Recovering Pessimist

March 21, 2014

I have had happiness on the brain lately. First, it was that discussion of happy songs with my kids. Then Thursday was the International Day of Happiness. I have also been testing out a new app called Happify, which teaches you to be happier through scientifically proven exercises. Also, I just finished researching and writing […]

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