Robyn Barberry is the doting wife of her high school sweetheart, the mother of three precocious boys, and the art teacher at St. Joan of Arc school in Aberdeen.


May 2015
April 2015

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There ARE consequences to not immunizing. The consequences are epidemics.


I am concerned about the choice not to vaccinate. Mrs. Tsottles refers to Countless families whose children have suffered as a result of vaccination. I would be interested in hearing the numbers who have had some problems as opposed to those who have benefitted. I am 72 years old and still remember polio. That was a common disease and I believe that most people of my generation knew someone who had polio. I remember how happy my parents were to get us immunized. I wonder if people will remain so opposed to vaccinations if we begin to see some of these horrible afflictions return. This is not a perfect world and sometimes we have to weigh the risks. Do we really want to return to the time when whooping cough was a common occurrence among young children?



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Share Your Gifts

Note: I gave this speech at Mass during our Ministry Weekend at St. Joan of Arc Church in Aberdeen to encourage others to find their God-given gifts and share them with our parish.

You can do the same at your parish.


“Our St. Joan of Arc parish motto is “Jesus invites…St. Joan of Arc welcomes.”  
I witnessed this first hand when I walked through these doors on December 25, 2011.  I had my husband and our two-year-old son with me and a baby in my belly.  I was feeling disconnected from the church I was attending.  It was a place where people showed up, said prayers, sang songs, and left.  We were all connected to God, but we weren’t connected to each other.  

"From the very first moment I walked into St. Joan of Arc, I felt a deeper connection to Christ because I felt connected to others who share my faith.  I felt it at that first moment when I set foot into this church, as someone held open the door for my family.  I was greeted by complete strangers as I took in the enormous tree in the gathering space.  And no one gave a dead fish handshake during the exchange of peace.  After Mass, no one rushed to their cars.  There was conversation and joy radiating through the air.  I came back the following week.  And I’m still here.

"A little over two years later, I can say that I have found my second home.  In addition to having Father Willie baptize two of my babies here, I became a St. Joan of Arc school parent and teacher.  I’ve also joined the Pastoral Council, where I’m following my mom’s advice by using the talents that God gave me.  I’m kind, creative, and love to bring people together to have a good time.  So, I’ve chosen to focus on community building, by hosting events such as Donut Sunday and Family Movie Night to help members of the parish feel connected with each other and with Christ.

"I knew that Christmas morning that I had found the church I was looking for.  I’m sure that some of the friendly faces I met that day are in this room.  I also know that every person in this room was given some sort of a talent.  

"Here’s my challenge to you: Ask yourself, “What can I contribute to St. Joan of Arc?” 

"Do you have a beautiful voice? Sing God’s praises in our choir.

"Are you a born teacher? Consider becoming a catechist.

"Should you be competing on Top Chef? Get some practice on our Hospitality Committee.

"Maybe you’re a good listener. Be the source of peace someone who’s hurting needs by volunteering for our bereavement committee.

"Even if all you have is a truck, you can take food to someone who is hungry.

"God made all of us unique so that we need to rely on each other to do his work.  
What were you created to do for Him?”

May 29, 2015 03:19
By Robyn Barberry

Spring fever in early childhood

I had both of the little boys with me when I stopped by St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen on the Friday morning of the spring concert.  I needed to hang some of the beautiful posters my 4th and 7th grade students made to celebrate each of the “American Bandstand” songs that would resonate from the voiced of our spectacular upper level students.  (Roman’s “Beyond the Sea” poster transported me to a resort I’ll never be able to afford, but can still enjoy in my mind.)

I had a small window between Friday morning Mass and the start of the big show to decorate, and, as it is on so many other days, I had my two sidekicks, two-year-old Frank and one-year-old Leo at my side.  However, I had left my stroller at home, so I was forced to hold both of them and the posters at the same time.  I asked for one of the middle school students to help me, but they were on their way to a prayer service, and so, I found myself scrambling after Frank and Leo while the Kindergarteners (including big brother Collin) and first graders had recess.  

It was like whack-a-mole.  I picked up one and the other threw himself from my arms to chase after a dodge ball or fall in to a game of tag.  I tossed the beautiful concert posters aside and grabbed them both at once.  A wave of awe swept over my youngest students.  They had no idea about the power my biceps possess.  Within a few seconds, they’d wriggled themselves down again and joined the playground mayhem.

Defeated, I approached Collin’s teacher to apologize.  She smiled and said, “You know, they get spring fever, too.”

I watched as my toddlers and young students amused each other.  The breeze tickled them under their little chins and pressed gently against their backs as they dashed about the yard.  The buds on the trees over their heads were just about to become leaves.  Short sleeves were still a bit of a risk, so some wore sweaters or light jackets.  The season of hopeful anticipation was upon us.  All of us.  Even the little guys who didn’t quite understand that it was spring.  Somehow they knew that something wonderful was about to happen.

The songs my students would be singing later that afternoon reflected this excitement. “Walkin’ on Sunshine,” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and even “Rockin’ Robin” (usually a source of torment for me, because of my name) all remind us that God sent us this time of year as a reminder of His endlessly renewing love for us.  It’s the very force that causes animals and plants to reenergize and reproduce and kids of all ages everywhere to refuse to stay still and let the world pass by.

May 28, 2015 11:11
By Robyn Barberry

Breaking news

Every one of Collin’s mornings begins the same. I gently press against his heart and nudge him from asleep to awake. (Sometimes he’s muttering something. Today, it was that I should have taken the yellow door.) I sing his name like a door bell, dragging out the first syllable. “Col-lin.”

What follows is a template, of sorts. In a high, soft pitch, I pipe, “Good morning! It’s today! And do you know what you’re going to do today?”

This is the exact moment at which his dreams dissipate and the reality of the day’s details reveal themselves in synchronization with the movement of his covers to his feet.

It’s Tuesday, so “Hot Lunch” is usually the hot topic of the day, and bowling club when it’s in season. But today was going to be different.

“We’re going to the Orioles game!” he shouted with the alertness and fervor of a 5-year-old boy at recess.

“Not today,” I told him, as I helped him with the buttons on his uniform polo.

“Why not?”

“It’s not my decision,” I told him. “We can’t go because the game is cancelled.”

“Why?” he asked.

It hadn’t been made official yet, but when Saturday night’s peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody on April 19, turned violent last night, the Orioles/White Sox game was postponed. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake established a curfew for the city effective 10 p.m., so I assumed that those factors coupled with the declared State of Emergency and the installation of the National Guard would result in another cancelled ballgame. But how do you explain all of that to a kindergartener?

Collin was away all weekend, and I worked until he was asleep on Monday, so I hadn’t had a chance to talk to him about the riots in Baltimore, or, as he calls it, “the City,” the place where we visit museums, animals, restaurants, and family members.

“Something really sad and really bad happened. A man named Freddie died when he was with the police, and a lot of people are really mad and sad about it. Some of them are breaking things, and stealing things, and lighting fires, and throwing things to try to hurt people.

The police and other people are doing the best they can to keep everyone safe, but it’s really dangerous right now, so the Orioles are not going to play tonight. So, we’re going to stay home.

But there are a lot of people who live and work and go to school in the city, like G (my mom) and Becky (his godmother), so we should pray for all of them and their families.”

He didn’t ask any more questions.

I don’t know if I said the “right thing.” I don’t know if there’s a “right thing” that can be said about all of this. Some stories are so complicated they’re impossible to write.

I’ve made the decision to raise my children to see the truth in the world, but at their age, I find myself dissecting news stories for them, like a mother bird processing food for her chicks. I sift for facts and filter through grisly details to determine what they actually need to know in order to walk away from the story learning something important about life.

At the same time, I try to shield my children from graphic images. Our brains retain images, attach strong emotions to them, and readily retrieve them when cued. Exposure to excessive violent imagery is linked to anxiety, desensitization, and violent behavior. Even adults should avoid overdosing on disturbing visual media.

Some people choose to expose their children to more of the story when tragedies occur. Some less. Some not at all. For them, it’s a choice and we hope that their decisions are made in the best interest of their children.

Some parents don’t have a choice because they’re living in the midst of civil unrest here or utter devastation in Nepal. Children throughout the world find themselves the witnesses to and victims of tragedies beyond our privileged imaginations. For them, we must pray.

So, too, we must pray for our own city and all of those affected by this ongoing situation. We must find those who seek peace and positive change and unite. And, we must find a developmentally appropriate way to discuss the issues at the core of world and local events with our children. They might be the ones who finally get it right.     

April 29, 2015 02:08
By Robyn Barberry

Art for our Earth

In honor of Earth Day, I invited Melissa Filiaggi, the recycling program manager for Harford County, to visit my art classes to discuss the importance of caring for our environment and create some cool art from recycled materials.

Melissa happens to be one of my best friends. The irony of our Earth Day teaching experience is that we both started college as art majors at Towson. I ended up becoming an English teacher, while Melissa studied biology so intensely that she spent almost two years living in the Peruvian rain forest. After teaching in the public schools, the opportunity came up for her to work directly on improving the environment, which led her to her current position. Her creativity and understanding of children are gifts that allow her to continue to teach about environmental responsibility at various schools and events in the community.

The students and I were so excited that we were having a visitor. Melissa gave an interactive presentation about what happens to plastic water bottles when they are recycled. Students bounced up and down while pretending to ride on the truck to the recycling center, did their best impersonations of The Wicked Witch as they melted down, and stretched their arms as high as they could reach when they were pulled into plastic threads that could be used to make new material. Then, Melissa showed the students a fleece scarf, a fuzzy teddy bear, and an Under Armour running shirt that were made of recycled water bottles.

We discussed how artists recycle old materials to create beautiful art. I mentioned the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore’s home for the eclectic work of self-taught modern artists, and told the students that even they had the ability to create something unique using the materials in the bins on their tables. Once they figured out what they wanted, Melissa, me, and some wonderful parent volunteers would assemble their work with hot glue guns.

You could have powered a jet with the energy surging throughout the room. Tin cans sprouted faces. Soda bottles grew feathers and became birds. Vehicles were assembled with the love and care that goes into restoring a classic car (except these were more enviro-friendly). Musical instruments filled the room with a joyful noise. And one of my pre-K boys made a “tickle device” that could brighten up anyone’s bad day.

Some of the art was a free-formed collection of things the artist perceived to be beautiful. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have a function. What mattered is that these objects weren’t headed directly to the landfill. Contrary to our society’s tendency for disposal, this “trash” was given a second chance and a new purpose. More importantly, children’s eyes were opened to possibilities by engaging the whimsical right side of their brains.

Encouraging subsequent generations to problem-solve by thinking “outside-of-the-box” is an essential part of restoring and preserving our planet. A STEM education, such as the one we provide at St. Joan of Arc, offers young people the opportunity to work collaboratively and reach solutions through a balance of sound reasoning and ingenuity. Sure we spared two giant trashcans worth of junk from entering the waste cycle, but more importantly, the students learned that the world is in danger and that it’s not too late for them to make a difference. 

April 22, 2015 11:56
By Robyn Barberry

A friend, indeed

I had been caring for three sick boys for a week and a day, when my friend Gina sent me a message asking if she could do anything to help. I told her if I thought of anything, I’d let her know. Then, she offered to pick Collin up and take him to the Creative Cow, a play and arts center for kids in Forest Hill. I said, “Yes, please!” This would allow me to focus the energy I had left on taking care of Frank and Leo, who were still sick, and give poor, cooped-up (but otherwise healthy) Collin the chance to do something fun with one of his friends. It was the answer to my prayers!

While they were gone, Gina sent pictures of the boys making a castle out of ENORMOUS foam blocks and dressed up in fire-fighter and construction worker costumes. It lifted my heart to see Collin smiling again. It felt good to know that he was in such wonderful hands. God had sent an angel to lift his spirits and mine.

Gina’s intuitive gift is what friendship is about. It’s a kind act to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” but she offered a concrete solution by answering who? what? where? when? and how? for me when my head was too muddled to even think of what I needed. I’m eternally grateful for a seemingly small favor that brought me abundant peace.


April 15, 2015 02:05
By Robyn Barberry

Mary’s strength

Frank has been sick with a terrible virus since Sunday night.  He slept the better part of three days and refused to eat or drink, so his little body grew weak. His skin has become transparent and grayish.  His eyes are as cold and shiny as faded blue marbles.  The skin on his lips is so chapped that it is curling up into choppy bits.  The only word he ever mumbles is, “water,” but he’ll barely take a sip.  There are no tears when he cries.

Because of all of this, Frank became so dehydrated that he needed to be taken to the hospital to receive IV fluids and medication to control his nausea enough so that he would consider eating.  It took three of us to hold him down while they swaddled him tightly in a sheet and pierced the crook of his elbow with a needle to draw blood and attach the tubes that would hopefully return him to a more stable state.

I felt helpless.  I’d done everything I could for him at home, following the advice of my mother, the nurse, and my mother-in-law, the concerned grandmother.  His medical care was out of my hands.  All I could do was comfort him.

As I gazed upon him in my arms, listless and emaciated, I thought about how Mary must have felt when she watched her Son, Jesus suffer.  She knew his fate when she agreed to carry him in her womb, but she agreed to be by His side for every day of His life, up until the tragic and brutal end.

How did she do it? I asked myself.  My little boy is sick, but (I pray) he will get better.  She watched as her Son was tortured slowly until He was violently murdered.  She held His crucified body in her arms.

I pictured Michelango’s “Pieta.”  I meditated upon it while I prayed. 

During Holy Week, we find ourselves drawing closer to God through the Passion of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Some of the world’s greatest works of art have been created to commemorate the events leading up to Jesus’ death (Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” is a prime example).  I spend the time reading devotions and children’s books about Jesus’ death to the boys, but taking the time to reflect upon religious art opens our minds to deeper reflection. 

My mental and spiritual engagement with the “Pieta” reinforced for me the themes of Holy Week and of Jesus’ life as a whole.  I found myself overwhelmed with for the woman who brought our Savior to Earth, knowing that He would die, but possessing tremendous faith that He would return on the third day.  And as a mom holding her little boy in a hospital room, I felt comfort in knowing that God, Jesus, and Mary were present in my vigil over Frank. 

Frank is still not his energetic, curious self.  He’s been curled up on the sofa all day, waking when I try to give him something to eat and drink.  Collin and Leo had the same virus, and were in pretty rough shape themselves, but now they’re happily destroying the house.  I’m not even mad.  Hopefully, Frank will be joining them in their creation of chaos, soon.  I’m praying that he’s well enough to celebrate Easter.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers!

April 06, 2015 11:32
By Robyn Barberry

Empty Bowls, full hearts

Back in January (which seems like forever ago!), St. Joan of Arc School celebrated Catholic Schools week with a “buddy day,” during which older students paired with younger students to paint ceramic bowls for St. Vincent de Paul’s Empty Bowls fundraiser.

According to their website, “Empty Bowls is St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore’s signature event that raises funds, friends and awareness of our work to serve those who are hungry and homeless in our community.” At the event, guests are treated to a variety of (unlimited!) soups prepared by some of Baltimore’s finest restaurants, silent auctions, door prizes, and kids’ activities.

And the best part – you can choose one of over 3,500 (!) handmade bowls to take home.

And so, being the art teacher and a parent volunteer, I found myself surrounded by all of my students at once in the parish hall on that blustery January afternoon, coaching them as they decorated their “blank canvasses” with stars, spirals, swirls, stripes, and…Spiderman (!).

A wonderful lady named Kathy Fick of Kathy Fick Designs offered her artistic eye and ceramic expertise.

It was fun to work with Collin and his 6th grade buddy, whose name is also Colin. Both of them love art, so they had a great time collaborating on their bowl.

After an hour that felt more like five minutes, it was time for everyone to clean up and pack up their bowls to be fired in a kiln (it’s like a super-hot furnace where the glaze on pottery turns into a glassy finish.)

A few weeks later, Kathy sent our marketing director, Margie Forbes, a picture of our fired bowls. It reminded me of the upcoming event, so I called my beloved Aunt Anne, who attended last year, and she organized a table for us to attend. I was excited to be a part of such a wonderful cause and couldn’t wait to see my students’ bowls in person!

When the big day, March 28th, finally arrived, my parents and I piled into my mom’s car and headed to Timonium Fairgrounds to experience firsthand the Empty Bowls experience. We arrived 5 minutes early, and there were already hundreds of people in line, waiting to enjoy this special event. 

As soon as the doors opened, I rushed to the table where all the bowls were lined up on display, glancing at the picture of Collin and Colin holding up their bowl on my phone. I really wanted to find it and bring it back home with me. “We have more underneath,” a man told me. I looked and looked and looked some more, but I never found it.

I was slightly disappointed because I wanted a keepsake of that fun day we spent brightening up our winter with colorful glaze. I guess in a way, I wanted to hold on to a tangible piece of Collin, but his art has found a new home in someone’s sunny Baltimore kitchen. (I’ll face this again on a larger scale someday, when Collin grows up, but art and children are meant to be cultivated and shared with the world.) I imagine the new owner of the bowl said, “Collin and Colin…That’s funny!”

I did, however, discover several bowls that my students created. I even helped with one of them. So I chose two, and purchased a third for my principal.

Even though the ceramic bowls we selected were empty, the insulated paper mugs everyone was carrying around were full of hot delicious soups in a slew of flavors. My cousin Kathy was a big fan of the Maryland crab soup from Bill’s Seafood. My mom couldn’t stop raving about the coconut curry from KidzTable. And I was head over heels for Gertrude’s Portuguese kale soup. (I had 3 bowls!) Served with a side of H&S Baker’s sesame seed speckled Italian bread, it was the perfect complement to a somewhat snowy late March day.

The cold outside was a harsh reminder that while we were enjoying a modest gala inside of a massive exhibition hall, complete with enormous blue and yellow balloons and lanterns, there were people just a few miles away who were starving. Statistics about hunger were printed on little papers and stuffed into the ceramic bowls and posted on signs throughout the hall. The facts about the children hit me hardest.

I’ve witnessed childhood hunger firsthand as a teacher in low-income schools. I’ve seen the impact that starvation has on the body, on the mind, on the soul. It’s a condition that we must fight with whatever resources we can find. This event alone wasn’t going to solve world hunger, or even Baltimore hunger, but it does bring to light the grim picture of families without food.  But St. Vincent de Paul’s serves over 30,000 people, and the proceeds from Empty Bowls would feed many of them.

True to their mission, the St. Vincent de Paul volunteers were the most gracious hosts. I had a nice conversation with a college student about our vegan diets. I met two quiet, gentle ladies who run a summer camp for underprivileged kids and offered to ask some Harford County farmers to donate food and milk to their program.

A grandmother with the spirit of a teenager hugged the air out of me when I told her I was the art teacher at St. Joan of Arc and that my spectacular students had created 100 beautiful bowls. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” she said. Her smile and her energy were contagious.

“We’ll be back next year!” I told her.

“You better!” she said.

March 31, 2015 02:28
By Robyn Barberry

Fantastic gymnastics

At the recommendation of Frank’s teachers, I registered him for gymnastics at a local recreation center. I took one look at the room, covered in foam blocks and mats of primary colors, soft toys, a small set of parallel bars, and a 10 foot long trampoline, and knew it would be a great place for Frank to play and learn.

The first couple of weeks were rough. Frank was a ping-pong ball, bouncing from station to station in no particular order, refusing to dismount the trampoline, and nearly pile driving a classmate in the foam pit. A few times, we had to leave early, with me lugging Frank at my side, like a kicking/screaming suitcase. (Fortunately, I’ve learned to ignore the dirty looks.)

One day, it clicked. His regular teacher was absent. She’s always shown care for Frank’s safety, but she doesn’t expect much of him behavior or performance-wise. The substitute teacher began yelling his name. He didn’t respond. I pulled her aside to explain his situation.

“He has a receptive language delay,” I told her. “We don’t know what that means yet. He could be autistic. He could have an auditory processing disorder. Or he could just be stuck in a phase.”

She barely listened to me as I rattled out the same disclaimer I’ve been giving everyone when Frank does something off-putting.

But, she wasn’t worried about the labels floating in the air over Frank’s head, waiting to be pinned to his chest where a nametag might go. She was focused on Frank, the little boy in front of her and the gymnastics feats she wanted him to complete: a slide down the Little Tykes slide, a crawl over the rainbow, a jump from a spring board up and over a mat stack, parallel bars, a tumble down the wedge, a tip back and forth on the big roll, a steady walk across the balance beam, a climb up the tiny rock wall, three bounces across the trampoline, and a great big dive into the foam pit.

While the other three little gymnasts were led by their guardians through the routine, the teacher held Frank’s hand and guided him through each exercise, in order, twice, explaining the directions to him each time, slowing down and repeating as needed.
On the third go-round, Frank nailed the routine with very little outside help. His teacher and I (and even one of the other parents) applauded his accomplishment. (If only I had a little gold medal to give him!)

Over the past two months since he’s been in gymnastics, I’ve noticed a difference in Frank. The chaos in his mind is binding and reorganizing itself to the point where he is more mild than wild. Belligerence has given way to patience. Frank listens when I say his name. Frank is beginning to understand.

Here’s why:

1.                 Gymnastics offers structure and routine.
2.                 Gymnastics offers the chance to learn social skills, like taking turns and sharing.
3.                 Gymnastics offers young children the opportunity to learn new verbs (jump, climb, swing, slide) and prepositions (over, up, under, down).
4.                 Gymnastics is an excellent form of exercise. (God wants us to take care of the amazing bodies He gave us. Building muscles is one way to be healthy.)
5.                 Gymnastics is fun!

This morning, when Frank woke up, the first thing he said was, “gymnastics?”

“Not until tomorrow,” I told him.

Neither one of us can wait!

March 26, 2015 11:50
By Robyn Barberry

Emotional education

Collin came home from school one day with an interesting handout in his folder detailing strategies kids can use to work themselves through challenging emotional situations. I asked him where he got it, and he said Mrs. Stotler, the school guidance counselor stopped by to talk to his kindergarten class about emotions.

It was yet another reminder of why I chose St. Joan of Arc for Collin. A Catholic education isn’t just reading, math, social studies, and the arts; it’s about nurturing a child’s physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional needs, as well. I’m grateful for Collin’s teachers and Mrs. Stotler for taking the time to address a subject that is all too often ignored in schools.

As parents, we want to (more like need to) talk to our kids about handling strong feelings, but we don’t always know how. I asked Mrs. Stotler for her thoughts on the matter. Here’s what she had to say:

Talking about emotions can be difficult. What are they? Are there good emotions and bad emotions? Should we use our emotions as a guide to make decisions? These questions can be difficult to answer as an adult; however, children struggle to a greater degree due to the fact that they do not have the language to express themselves. It is the role of the parent, caregiver, teacher, mentor and/or family member to model emotional expression to the next generation. For the most part we, as adults, were not formally taught about our emotions but we certainly were taught in an informal way.

As a school guidance counselor and a clinical social worker, one of my roles is to provide students with an emotional vocabulary in an effort to equip them for social and academic success. In the younger grades, it is not uncommon for the children to respond to videos such as Sesame Street or Calliou. On one occasion, in a kindergarten classroom I showed a video of Grover and Dave Matthews singing about how they are feeling. The children reacted to this in a positive way and verbalized the emotions of jealousy, pride, anger, sadness etc. Once the children were taught the emotion, the hope is that when confronted with a situation that provoked a previously identified emotion, the student would be familiar with it and be able to accurately label how he/she is feeling.

In addition to videos, the children enjoy role playing difficult social interactions or demonstrating emotions on their faces in a mirror. It is helpful to educate them that all emotions are useful and that there aren’t “good” emotions and “bad” emotions. Most children believe that being happy is “good” and being sad is “bad”. It is necessary to let them know that emotions are merely trying to tell us something. For example: when a kindergartener is feeling angry about being left out of a game, the feeling of anger is secondary to feeling unwanted. Once students can recognize the primary emotion they are better able to address the problem. The use of storybooks is helpful as well in identifying emotion. The teacher can stop throughout a book and ask the children how the character is feeling in the story. Fictional characters assist in helping a young student talk about emotions in a non-threatening way.

Older students can also benefit from an emotional vocabulary lesson. Adolescents often feel many emotions all at once, creating internal tension. It is helpful to use an emotion chart where they can look at faces and labels to help to identify how they are feeling. Older children may enjoy writing in a journal, making a video diary or drawing to express their emotion. Using art as a tool is an effective strategy that clinicians use with students who have difficulty putting their feelings into words. As caregivers, ask your child/adolescent how their day was, using the feelings chart. You may even say “it sounds like you feel, ____________”. When children hear an adult mirroring their emotion back to them, it solidifies that emotion, helps them to feel understood and creates a bond between them.

While it is the role of the primary caregiver to teach about emotions in a healthy way, teachers, staff and guidance counselors can support that effort in the classroom.  There are helpful books such as "How Are You Peeling, Foods with Moods"," by Saxton Fraymann and Joost Jelferrs, as well as internet sites such as and which can assist in supporting caregivers with this task.

Laura Stotler is a licensed social worker and guidance counselor at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, Maryland.  She is trained in PBIS (Postive Behavior Intervention and Support) and has an extensive background working with families and children in various educational and clinical settings.





March 12, 2015 10:19
By Robyn Barberry

Make there be more

If you can get past the drug use, foul language and a few other issues in Art Linklater’s Boyhood, you will see a powerful depiction of the ever-changing phases of parenthood. In this story, Mason’s parents are divorced, so his mother is forced to return to college to pursue a better-paying occupation to increase the quality of her children’s lives. She’s all work, no play, herself and pushes the same attitude on Mason and his sister when it comes to their education. Dad fades in and out of the picture, but when he’s around, he spends quality time with his kids, taking them bowling, listening to them gripe about the problems young people face, and teaching them life lessons.

SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading now if you plan on seeing the movie and haven’t yet.

The relationships between Mason and his parents change over the years, with some times being more trying than others. But, on the eve of his departure for college, Mom, played by Patricia Arquette, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this particular role, reflects upon how fast her career as a mother passed by her while she was too busy living her own life, working, re-marrying, divorcing, re-marrying, divorcing, and deciding to live independently – even from her own children.

“I just thought there would be more,” she says, bursting into tears.

I had chills. I began to perspire. I didn’t know where these tears were coming from.

I woke Patrick from his sleep and told him about the scene I’d just witnessed. “I never want to feel that way,” I told him.

“That day is a long way away,” he said, “and you are not that mother.”

But I am. Between working two jobs and writing with every other spare moment I can find, am I doing enough for my kids? Am I merely making sure they’re clean, clothed, fed, and educated or am I nurturing their minds and spirits the way the father in the movie does? What can I do to make there be “more” every day?

I barely slept that night, even after holding each of my boys and kissing their cheeks and ruffling their hair. A thousand questions tumbled through my head in the spaces where my dreams should have been. Am I a good mother? How can I keep myself from regretfully wasting my child-rearing years? Is there any way to make it hurt less when my boys detach themselves from me? Can my past, present, and future come together in my golden years and make me smile rather than cry? After praying for peace of mind, I finally drifted off to sleep.

There are two things I have that Mason’s mother does not: faith and time.

I believe that God will protect my boys as they grow into men and will rest His hand upon my shoulder when I transition from one stage of motherhood to the next until, ultimately, I’m forced to say, “My children are grown.” I also pray that my family continues to stay close, just as Patrick and I are with our parents.

Perfect strangers like to look at me with my boys and say, “Enjoy it! It goes quick!” I’m not sure how helpful that’s supposed to be , but like Patrick said, “That day is a long way away,” and it’s not too late for me to enjoy the presence of my children and fill the days from now until then with “more.”

March 10, 2015 12:43
By Robyn Barberry

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