Editor’s Note | Facebook farm growing real-life relationships

Winter seemed exceptionally long and especially gray this year. Weather forecasters would probably prove me wrong with their stats and charts, but even my usual upbeat optimism was a little harder to maintain.

All that is behind us-for now.

With the return of the robins and the sunshine, I feel my spirits lifting and energy returning. As I do every year, I have created a to-do list for spring. It has the usual small home repairs and the generic “get outside more with the kids.”

New this year is a desire to grow things. Last summer, my daughter Arlee was assigned to grow a cabbage for a state scholarship competition. Faced with rabbit overpopulation in our neighborhood, she grew it instead in a container on the porch, and she and I babied that cabbage. We learned a lot about cabbage over the summer and thrilled at its progress.

It reminded me a bit of my childhood. My parents always planted a huge garden, and I remember how much I loved sneaking into the garden to steal cucumbers, green beans and peas and eating them right off the vine. I hate that I’ve never taken the time to share that experience with my kids.

That changes this spring. I think we’ll start off our new gardening effort

with lettuce, cucumbers and green peppers. I’m lucky we have a story in this month’s issue by Monica Kass Rogers (page 39) that simplifies the process of growing green. You’ll also find great ideas from parents just like you who have found creative ways to connect their kids with nature.

Some of the ideas just might inspire a few changes in your home, too.

Happy April.

I’m an addict.

There, I’ve finally admitted it to everyone. But I’m not interested in a 12-step program-at least not yet. There are still lost animals to rescue, produce to plant and friends to help become farmer gods while I build my own plantation life in Farmville.

My devotion to my Facebook farm opens the door to lots of teasing from the kids and my darling husband, who sometimes finds himself reluctantly booted off the computer while working in the middle of a giant spreadsheet so I can harvest my crops before they wither or feed my pretend dog Tierney before he runs away.

Never mind that I am always eager to make my IRL (in real life) friends and acquaintances fellow addicts. It’s no fun to be alone in an addiction.

Sure I could be doing something more productive with the few minutes every day that I spend on Facebook catching up with my friends’ status updates and farming. But every parent needs a little mind break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, right?

I didn’t really realize my kids were onto my addiction until I was tidying up the “real” flower beds in our front yard and the kids were gleefully dancing around me and laughing about me “farming.” So I took a step back and now only plant and harvest crops once a day-after 9 p.m.

All kidding aside, as we discover in Kelly James-Enger’s story this month about our online personalities, Facebook and other social media are becoming a great tool for moms and dads to connect with friends and family and find answers to pressing questions. For example, over the weekend, one of my friends asked whether black nylons can be paired with a dark brown suit (NO) and another asked for non-violent anti-rabbit tricks for her garden this year. Plus there were dozens of status updates about my friends’ kids’ sports victories, prom photos and new baby photos (our terrific Art Director Rebecca Lomax became an aunt again).

I’ve re-established friendships that had withered because I don’t ever make enough time for girls’ night out or lunch. I’ve used Facebook to help my daughter sell Girl Scout cookies, and I’ve also used Facebook to keep my kids connected to friends who have moved out of the country. I find stories that inspire me and tips that I can apply to my own life.

Parenting can be an isolating experience. These days, social media is playing a larger role in bringing us all together. It is creating a new definition of community. At Chicago Parent’s Facebook page, for example, that community includes more than 1,400 parents you can connect with through the shared experience of raising a child in Chicago.

As our story this month points out, the key, really, is to make sure we don’t lose touch with the people in our lives.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, but especially to the celeb dads we’re featuring this month and to my wonderful husband who puts up with me and loves our kids to pieces.

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