Robyn Barberry is a high school and college English teacher and mother of two young sons.

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In fourth grade my daughter went to school in a skirt and boots she was thrilled to be wearing for the first time. An early fashion sense, she enjoyed selecting her own outfits and at that time still liked to wear things other than jeans. When she arrived at school she was confronted by a "friend" who directly told her "that is an ugly skirt" to which she responded, "I don't remember thinking about you when I got dressed this morning". This conversation was overheard by her teacher and relayed to me later in the week. My daughter never mentioned the conversation to me and that is when I knew she was going to be self sufficient and confident in her choices and her "you ness" as we call it in our family. Bullies will be there throughout life and unfortunately even into adulthood....but how we choose to lift up our hearts and respond tells our true character. As my now 17 year old daughter says often as she gets ready to go into the wide world of college and beyond....."wishing you were someone else is wasting the person you are"

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Unconditional

Thought for food


If you happen to be in Bel Air and hungry over the next few weeks, I recommend longtime casual Italian establishment Buontempo Brothers on Main Street.  

It was one of the first places we discovered when we moved to Bel Air in 1987. I have many fond memories of after-school pizza with my St. Margaret friends, especially since it was a five-minute walk from the parish.  Now, I enjoy taking my own family there for great food at a great price.  It's counter service with class.  And you can't beat the booth space for large groups like ours!

While we were enjoying our Monday pasta specials ($5.99 for a heaping portion of pasta, salad, and bread), I found another reason to love Buontempo Brothers: a Lenten menu!  Richard and Renato (the big guys in charge) have put together a selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes suitable for those abstaining from meat.  All for less than $15.

Richard (l) and Renato (r) proudly display the Lent Specials at Buontempo Brothers in Bel Air.


My personal favorite is the gnocchi pesto, pillowy potato dumplings tossed in herbs, garlic, and olive oil.  I also love their spaghetti for its robust sauce.  From what I hear, the crab cakes and shrimp scampi are hearty and packed with flavor.  And the pizza is near perfection - hand-tossed, crispy crust topped with the finest cheeses.

Everyone who works at Buontempo Brothers is friendly and eager to serve.  It's clear that Richard and Renato carefully choose their staff.  They are especially accommodating when it comes to children.  Collin decided he wanted a slice of pizza.  I got up to return to the counter, but an employee bussing a nearby table insisted on taking care of it.  He even asked if we wanted it cut up into small pieces.

It's great to see places like Buontempo Brothers weather time and the changes it brings.  It takes talent, dedication, and faith, all of which Richard and Renato possess.  Come see for yourself, but not on Sunday - they're closed.

April 09, 2014 05:31
By Robyn Barberry


Car trouble



I first noticed the problem when I first drove my car after returning from a trip to St. Louis.  The day after I got home, an indicator on my dash informed me that the tailgate was open on my Honda Pilot.  Fortunately, I was just leaving to take Collin to school and wasn’t driving yet.  I got out of the car, raised the hatch, and pushed it back down until it clicked shut.  It held – for a while.

When I got to Collin’s school, my car wouldn’t lock with the remote.  Usually it means a door isn’t closed all the way.  This time, it was the fifth door.

Later that day, while I was driving the boys home from school, I heard an electronic clicking and realized my tailgate was open again.  I worried that my hatch would fly open, offsetting the Pilot’s balance and sending us tumbling down into a ditch. 

As soon as I could, I called Patrick and explained the situation.  “Take it to the dealership,” he said.  “It should still be under warranty.”

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/Brian Hoecht

As I called to make an appointment, I said a small prayer.  “Please, God.  Don’t let it be serious.”  I couldn’t afford to be without my vehicle.  Not with three little boys and their pressing agendas.  Not when it’s too cold outside to walk to the mailbox, let alone anywhere else.  Most of all, we needed to be safe.

I nervously waited at a nearby Mexican restaurant with my mom, who was kind enough to pick me up from the dealership while the work was done.  They’d informed me that they may need to order parts, which meant I’d drive around for a week or more with a temperamental tailgate and possibly lose my car for an entire day or longer when the part finally arrived.  The phone rang just as I took a monstrous chomp out of a guacamole slathered tortilla chip.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I heard next.

“Well, we looked over your whole entire hatch, and nothing appears to be wrong with it.”

Had I imagined it?  Did I develop a tailgate-slamming compulsion based on a hallucinated light form?

“We did, however, find a piece of hard candy wedged in between a gasket.  That may have been the problem.”

“Candy?” I asked, aloud and in my head.

“Yes, ma’am.  But, if you could come back and take a look just to make sure everything is okay…”

“I’ll be right there,” I told him.

My mom and I talked it over, trying to think of how a piece of candy (which I very rarely allow my boys to have, and never in my car) could have ended up in my trunk.  Then, she remembered. 

While we were cleaning out my car before the trip, my mom discovered a yellow piece of candy underneath of Collin’s seat.  She scraped it off the metal bar and didn’t know where it went.

Back at the dealership, the associate addressed me in a grave tone.  “Hello, Robyn,” he said “I want to show you what we found.”  He raised the hatch, pointed out all of the inspections they’d done and pointed to the spot where they found the candy as though he were indicating a crime weapon.  He described the candy as though it were a fugitive.  I surmised it to be a banana Runt.    

I had to laugh.  So I did.  Thank God it wasn’t serious! 


March 28, 2014 04:48
By Robyn Barberry


Weekly Wonder Tech/Toy: Endless Alphabet


When Collin’s teacher told me he was having trouble with his sight words, I sought out some solutions to help kick start his reading.  I decided to search for apps for my iPad since I’d installed a handful of other learning games.  (Plus, it’s a great device for keeping him occupied in restaurants or during long waits.)  In my search, I discovered Endless Alphabet by Originator Kids, and decided to give it a try, especially since it had over 250 five-star reviews.

The program features a colorful, scrolling menu of words the user may choose to spell.  These aren’t your typical starter words, like “cat” or “dog.”  Children using Endless Alphabet will learn words like “famished” or “gargantuan.” When the word is selected, it is presented in fun letters and stormed by an animated army of little monsters. 



Next, the outline of the word is presented, surrounded by the missing letters, dressed up like little monsters, who are dragged into the letter spaces.  As they’re dragged, the monster letters repeatedly vocalize the sound letters make.  I admit, I found it annoying at first, but when I considered the phonetic value of the noise, I adjusted my attitude, sat back, and watched Collin learn. 

After the word is spelled, cheering ensues, followed by a short cartoon illustrating the word.  Lastly, a woman’s voice gives a simple definition.  “When you forgive someone, you stop feeling angry at them.”  What a perfect word to teach to children.

My one criticism is that the words can be spelled in any order.  I’d rather see the letters rejected if they’re meant to be used later in the word.  Otherwise, I’m doubtful that Endless Alphabet is an effective spelling tool.

Still, I’m pleased with the progress Collin is making with Endless Alphabet, even if the words are “gargantuan” compared to the sight words offered by Originator Kids’ much simpler app, Endless Reader, of which Collin is also a fan.  He laughs over and over again at the cartoons and has begun incorporating some bigger words into his vocabulary.  His greatest triumph was when he said, “Mom, let’s d-e-c-o-r-a-t-e for St. Patrick’s Day.”  With a request like that, the answer was “yes.”

Endless Alphabet is available at the Apple App Store for $6.99.  (Yes, it’s expensive, but considering the cost of other phonics texts and programs, it’s a fair deal).   

 

March 27, 2014 02:43
By Robyn Barberry


Forgiving the trespasser



This morning, when I went to put the boys in the car, perfectly parallel-parked just inches from the curb, I noticed something was off.  The glass was all intact, but the box from my new running shoes was in Leo’s car seat base.  When I opened the front door, I found the contents of my center console strewn across the passenger seat.  My diaper bag, usually tucked below Frank’s rear-facing car seat, was gone.

In the diaper bag were, of course, diapers, but also some nice clothes my grandmother had bought the boys for Christmas.  I thought of the navy zip-up cardigan Leo hadn’t worn yet.  Worse was the loss of my prized Vera Bradley overnight bag, a gift from my mom, moonlighting as the size diaper bag one needs for three boys. But then I remembered what was in the bag – my camera with all of the pictures of Leo’s first Christmas.

I jumped up and down on the sidewalk, the pavement stinging me from the bottom of my feet to the center of my knees.  I clenched my jaw as I retreated back to the house.  This was usually the start of my adult-sized temper tantrum, but I promised myself this Lent that I’d handle adversity with a cool head.

As I stepped onto my porch, I wondered if I should I just wait until I could get a hold of Patrick or the police or the insurance company or my county council member or Governor O’Malley, or whomever I could call to get me out of this predicament.

“No,” I told myself.  “Collin needs to get to school on time and besides, are any of those people going to be able to help me get my bag back?”

I didn’t want to upset Collin, so I said nothing as I gently pushed him out the door.  I refused to let my anger take control.  My kids didn’t need to see that.  No one did.

I said an “Our Father” to stay calm and to remind me of my objective.  I focused on these words: “…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  When I thought about the sins I commit against God, someone I love, I imagined how much I must hurt Him, far more than the strangers who broke into my car had hurt me.  But God forgives us and asks us to do the same for His other wayward children.

When Patrick called, he was sympathetic, but showed no anger.  It’s a trait that used to upset the “Irish hothead” in me.  I used to want everyone to feel as upset as I did.  Patrick and a few other role models have helped me to see that getting angry doesn’t solve problems.

“It’s my fault anyway,” I told him.  “I shouldn’t have left the bag in the car.  I shouldn’t have left my camera in the bag.  And I think I forgot to lock the door when I came in last night.”

Stuff gets left in my car because it takes several trips to bring three boys and their belongings inside.  I guess I needed to take a few more trips last night.  I guess I’ll need to make more trips in the future.

I called the local police, just in case my bag or camera showed up.  It pained me to know that the boys’ clothing probably ended up in a trash bin.  As I spoke with the officer in my living room, I remained calm.  I hadn’t shed one tear yet, where typically my eyes would gush with anguish.  “I just want my pictures back,” I told him.

The police officer tried to dust my door handles for fingerprints, but found nothing.  I didn’t care.    

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/West Midlands Police

Though I was disappointed to have my bag and its contents, physical and digital, taken from me, and though I felt violated to discover someone had been in my car, and though others would understand if I got angry, I chose to be at peace.  I didn’t hold a grudge against some faceless entity.  I didn’t know his or her motives, nor should I speculate, nor should I care.  I didn’t bargain by saying “if they’d only bring me back my camera, then I wouldn’t even press charges.”  I’m still not giving up on the possibility of being reunited with my things, but I refuse to allow it to take over my life. 

Instead, I’m choosing to forgive my trespasser.  For his or her benefit and mine.      

March 10, 2014 03:25
By Robyn Barberry


The appraisal



“The appraiser is coming on Tuesday,” Patrick told me.

“But that’s less than a week away!” I replied. “We have so much to do to get ready!”

The re-fi papers had gone through.  We couldn’t turn back.  A better mortgage could offer us a better life by saving us a sizable sum each month.  But our approval would depend on the result of the appraisal.

I looked around my house and saw chaos. 

Trucks and balls and plastic parts were strewn across the living room floor alongside a smattering of random socks.  It was toy stew, and it had nearly consumed the couch.  Crayon scribbles added a splash of color to my tan walls.

The cats had spilled speckles of kibble in a semicircle around their dish next to a refrigerator so covered in Collin’s artwork that you’d never know it was white, and therefore “dated.”  The kitchen counters contained so many small appliances that the entire neighborhood would lose power if they were all turned on at once.




An ever growing, seldom shrinking mountain of clothing sat in a basket in front of the working dryer, while the dryer in need of repair assumed its temporary role as a landing place for displaced papers and would-be junk.

The powder room, though small, was the tidiest place and I wondered if it would be possible to encourage the appraiser to spend extra time in there.

I won’t even begin to describe the upstairs, but here are two clues: overstuffed closets and bathrooms in serious need of updating.   

The bad news: I’m in for five days of cleaning the likes of which we’ve only seen on HGTV.  The good news:  I have time to get ready.

As soon as I finish writing the last sentence of this piece, I will launch into a frenzy to make my house look like no one lives in it.  In reality, five people do.  And with that comes our stuff.  And since three of the five inhabitants are too young to clean up after themselves, our house always looks a little disheveled.  Getting rid of some of the excess should help, but after that I need a better routine for keeping my home in appraiser-ready shape on a regular basis.

Our lives are like our homes.  We live in them, with others, and sometimes it gets messy.  But just as we do in our homes, we should take the time to clean up our spiritual selves.  To cut out the junk that isn’t good for us on the inside.  To obey the Commandments.  To have a regular routine for worship by attending Mass and confession, by praying each day, and by sharing our gifts with others. 

What would Jesus see if He stepped into your life today?  What if He came to see your loved ones? The truth is we never know when our real appraiser is coming.  We won’t have five day’s notice to straighten ourselves up.  So, we must always strive to meet God’s standards for us, and hopefully, if we do we will be granted eternal life.

February 28, 2014 03:16
By Robyn Barberry


Weekly Wonder Tool: EZ Squeezees


Baby food containers have changed dramatically since I began spooning puree into my children’s mouths in 2009. With Collin, it was glass jars. With Frank, plastic tubs. And now that Leo is getting ready to eat solid food, the pouch is all the rage.

Those little jars I got for Collin were under a dollar. Frank’s tubs were a little over a dollar. And the pouch? Nearly $2 a pop!

Baltimore dad Jordan Takas felt equally appalled at the cost of pouched baby food, but he also saw in it an opportunity. With his medical devices background, passion for wellness, and just plain ingenuity, Jordan developed a refillable pouch, which became EZ Squeezees.

EZ Squeezees zipper down the side to accommodate 6.5 ounces of squeezable product. (There are larger sized pouches in the works). On one end is a spout, which is where the product is dispensed. Though not advertised as such, the spout will accommodate an attachable spoon from a well-known baby products manufacturer. The best part of all is that the EZ Squeezee is easy to clean in your sink and even in the dishwasher!

To fill the EZ Squeezee, place on the lid, unzip the side of the pouch, blow in some air to fill the gusset, and spoon in the product. You can even write down the contents on the back of the pouch.



We tried the EZ Squeezee for a week, despite the fact that we won’t need to use it for baby food for a few more weeks. I used it to pack the remnants of my smoothie, rather than allowing my blender to consume precious refrigerator real estate. I also packed myself a protein shake for the gym. I found that the liquids leaked a little bit through the sides. Patrick had more success with hummus and almond butter, though squeezing those pasty condiments took a little more effort.



Baby and other pureed food – the intended fillers- are much better. Applesauce was the golden ticket for me. (Collin is getting some packed in an EZ Squeezee for his lunch tomorrow.)

As for baby food, I plan on making more of my own this time, due to increasing costs and to honor my desire to feed my children minimally processed vegetables and fruits. Using the EZ Squeezees to store Leo’s homemade food will make that goal much easier to attain for around the house or on the go. Just think – it packs flat when it’s empty and is kinder for the environment than the constant stream of plastic spilling out of homes with young children. 

If you are the parent of a young child, or are health conscious when it comes to your diet, or care deeply about the environment, or, like me, are all of the above, the EZ Squeezee could easily enhance your day-to-day life. You can purchase EZ Squeezees at Wegman’s or Whole Foods (and possibly Giant in the spring) or from their website. A three pack costs $9.99 and could pose a world of savings.


February 25, 2014 01:20
By Robyn Barberry


Preschool bully


“I’m not your friend.”

The words no mother ever wants to hear when dropping her child off at preschool.

Collin, who is easily excited, called out to another classmate near the door. “Hey, Derrick,” he said, unzipping his coat.

“Go away,” Derrick said.

“Check out my lion shirt!”

“Go away. I’m not your friend.”

“Yes you are,” a confused-sounding Collin responded, even though Derrick had already left.

My heart broke for him, partly because he didn’t realize what had transpired. How could someone not like Collin? He’s bright and warm and entertaining. Sure he can be a little loud and slightly bossy, but why did this boy deliberately try to hurt my baby’s feelings?

“Unfortunately, that’s how the world is,” my mom explained when I brought it up to her. “We can’t protect them from everything. Their little hearts are going to break sometimes.”

I supposed she was right. I’m sure I break Collin’s heart when I take the iPad away or tell him it’s time to leave a birthday party. But, this is different. It’s an attack upon his sense of self-worth coming from another four-year-old.

“Maybe Derrick is just a mean kid or maybe he had a bad morning. Collin is always a sweet kid. Not all children are sweet,” my mom added.

Collin is extremely outgoing and loves to share and give out hugs. Derrick and some of the other preschool boys are more into play-fighting, and that’s just not Collin’s thing. They like the latest action figures; Collin likes cars. They dress like little adults; Collin still looks like a little kid. And that’s okay.

This morning when I dropped Collin off, Derrick made a comment I couldn’t hear about Collin’s snow monster shirt. I heard their teacher quickly shush Derrick. Collin ran back out to give his brothers and me a kiss. And I was happy for the sweet, innocent boy I have.



I’m still not sure to handle the Derrick situation. As long as Collin is unaware of what’s happening, I will keep quiet. I may alert the teachers, but don’t see the sense in contacting Derrick’s parents. When his feelings start to hurt, I will talk to Collin about how he’s wonderful just the way he is and that not everyone in the world will be his friend and that that’s okay.  As he gets older, the conversation will change, but the sentiment will stay the same.

When asked what he’d say to those who doubted his success, Russian figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko said, “thank you.”

We can’t allow the haters we encounter triumph over our spirits. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. That’s exactly what we’ll do.

February 20, 2014 11:10
By Robyn Barberry


How (not) to catch a snowflake


I do not have a science background.  However, I do have a childish sense of wonder, one of the secrets of happiness I explored last spring.  It was that quizzical side of me that took over as I gazed out my kitchen window at the biggest snowflakes I had ever seen.  I just had to get my hands on one.  To touch it.  To examine it up close.  To have possession over something so fleeting, even just for a moment.

But how?

As I already mentioned, I’m not a scientist and overall find myself lacking in common sense.  Still I remembered hearing when I was a child that you could use black construction paper and a magnifying glass to see the tiny crystals that make up each snowflake.  I bolted to find the materials before the snowflakes disappeared.

“Black construction paper should be easy to find,” I thought.  You can’t color on it, so there’s always plenty left over. I tore into my bin of school supplies, finding a number of items I’d been looking for (ahem, stapler), but no black construction paper. 

As I turned around to look in the toy room for said paper, I passed Frank’s tiny black T-shirt.  I decided it would work.  I continued to the toy room to find Collin’s magnifying glass. 

“What are you doing?” he asked, puzzled by my apparent hurry.

“I’m looking for your magnifying glass.  I want to show you something cool,” I explained.

“Oh,” he said, returning to his silly putty.

After sifting through a pool of action figures and toy cars, I decided to use my magnifying light up mirror instead.

I unplugged the mirror, set it down on the washer, plugged it in, turned it on, and shuddered at the sight of my pores and wrinkles magnified 5x.

“Collin!” I called, thrusting open the back door.  “Come here!  I want to show you something.”

“Not right now,” he said.

“Aw, come on – it will only take a second.”

His feet shuffled past our wall of coats, hats, and boots.  He seemed surprised to see the mirror on the washer. 

“You wanna see a snowflake up close?” I asked him.

He pretended to be interested.

I threw on my sneakers and barreled through the back door, T-shirt in hand.  I held the shirt like a cookie tray and waved it from left to right, filling the shirt with flakes from the size of a tic-tac to the size of a silver dollar.  I noticed that when the biggest flakes hit they were actually clusters, which crumbled into specks that melted upon contact.

When I was satisfied with the number of flakes I’d gathered, I brought the shirt in for Collin to hold while I tilted the mirror.  I’d expected to see crystals that looked like the snowflakes kids made by cutting paper.  Instead I saw specks of white “lint” on a shirt growing wet and a bored, disappointed boy.

“I’m outta here,” Collin said, sounding more like a 14-year-old than a 4-year-old.

Defeated, I headed to the kitchen to clean up breakfast dishes while I admired the snowfall from afar.  Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Collin’s magnifying glass between the piano and the table in the dining room.  I picked it up and turned to find sheet music just beyond the magnifying glass.  It was for “Falling Slowly,” and about half of the cover was solid black.  “It just might work,” I thought.



I rushed to the front door, telling Collin to join me just one more time.  We stood in the foyer as I prepared a paper “cookie tray” and handed him the magnifying glass.  Without taking a couple of seconds to put on a coat, I barged onto the front porch, pushing the sheet music out beyond the overhang.

I brought it back inside and quickly grabbed the magnifying glass from Collin.  It was a little scratchy, but I could make out a couple of delicate crystals.  “Look, Collin!  Look at the crystals! Do you see them?” I asked, as I tried to point out the rapidly disintegrating fruit of my conquest.

“I’m outta here,” he said.  But this time I didn’t feel defeated.

In my winter’s morning journey, I desperately wanted to possess something that I didn’t have the resources for.  I wanted someone else to join me, but I couldn’t make him interested.  When I finally did capture my desired prize, it didn’t last long.

Sound familiar?  Life is like that.  We’re on this quest and the prizes we seek are often so far out of our reach because we don’t have the right tools, or the right people, or enough time.  But, maybe we’re not packing right. 

If I had taken the time to research snowflake capture, I would have found this awesome experiment.  Then, I could have purchased and gathered the necessary materials into a “snowflake catching kit,” ready for whenever the big flakes fall.  If I was better planned or had asked him at a better time, maybe Collin would have been more interested.  Or maybe I could have entertained Frank or Leo, instead.

As for time, snowflakes have a short life span.  And so do we.  So we should make use of it wisely.  Even if that means you find yourself catching snowflakes.

 

 

 

February 06, 2014 03:25
By Robyn Barberry


Parent/teacher conference

I’d been to dozens of parent/teacher conferences over the past eight years, but this one was different.  This time I was the parent.

Patrick and I nervously sat down in tiny primary colored chairs at a table right out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  We were bombarded from all sides with colorful posters advertising vowel sounds (long and short), Spanish words for everyday things (prima/o means cousin), and class rules (never let your voice get to Rock Star level!).  The lights were dimmed, except for the bright one from the reptile or amphibian tank (I was too intimidated to look).

Across from us sat Collin’s teacher, Ms. Andrews, whose mannerisms resemble the “Julie” of the same last name.  She had a stack of papers all bearing Collin’s name with a little smiley face after it.

“So do you have any concerns?” she asked.

He’d had a bad day at school the day before, blowing raspberries when addressed and answering “No!” when directed or questioned. Ms. Andrews had already spoken with me about it, chalking it up to “we all have our days.”  Still, I was concerned.

 “His attitude!” I exclaimed.  “He’s bossy and he says the meanest things to us, like ‘I don’t like your life,’ or ‘I’m never going to see you again.’”

 “Really?” she responded, shocked.  “That’s not like him. It was really only yesterday that his behavior was off.”

“We just don’t want him being mean to his friends,” Patrick interjected.

“Collin?  He gets along with everyone.  Especially the girls.  One of them was even drawing pictures for him.”

We smiled.

“When we’ve seen him around other kids, he just seems so bossy.”

“Not at all,” she said.

Then, Ms. Andrews began to share his school work with us.  Graphs, letter-writing practice, self-portraits, and even a family portrait from September which showed a little tiny Leo in my belly.


“He’s right on track,” Ms. Andrews said, handing us a checklist for Kindergarten readiness.

Only one question remained: what could we do about sight words, the only category in which he performed poorly on his report card.

“Don’t stress too much about sight words.  They will work on them in kindergarten.  But, if you want to keep exposing Collin to them, there are games you can play, like spelling them out with food – there are cheese crackers with letters on them.  Or you can write letters on water bottle tops, put them in a tub of  water so they can float, and have him “catch” them and spell words with the letters.” 

She handed us an entire packet of sight word games, and asked if we had any more questions.  We didn’t, but we chatted for a little while, exchanging funny Collin stories.

I left feeling much lighter. Though I’d already learned it during my years on the other side of the conference table, I discovered that Collin behaves much better at school than he does at home.  I also got a peek at the life he has outside of our family by hearing a narrative of his days between 9 and 1 while spending some time in his home away from home. 

Above all, I considered this conference to be a “check-up” for me as a parent.  I was relieved to be assured I wasn’t a failure, but still found some ways I can improve.  I hope to continue to keep in close communication with Ms. Andrews and Collin’s future teachers so that we can act as partners in shaping Collin into a kind and intelligent young man.    

January 30, 2014 02:18
By Robyn Barberry


Weekly Wonder Toy: AquaDoodle


Silence is seldom a good thing when young children are playing. It usually means they’ve gotten into something they shouldn’t. So, when I stopped hearing Collin and Frank giggling, I went downstairs to investigate.

I found them surrounding a mat on the floor covered with colorful scribbles. Frank had given up since the mat was nearly full and began to draw on the floor. But, I did not fret, as they were merely playing with the AquaDoodle, and their skin and my floors were unscathed.

The AquaDoodle is a water-activated toy which includes a four-color mat and a marker-style pen. Santa brought it for Frank because he loves to track down crayons and color all over my walls. AquaDoodle allows Frank to go to town without being able to make a mess greater than the power of a rag or paper towel.

The set Frank got included a mini mat and one pen. The boys had trouble taking turns, so we ordered an additional accessory kit on Amazon.com, which included a sponge “brush,” a well for the “brush,” stencils, and an additional pen. Doubling this all important commodity has brought peace to AquaDoodle playtime.

The mess-free factor expands to include an easy cleanup. Simply roll up the mat and tuck the pen in the attached loop. It’s art made easy.



AquaDoodle also could be a tool for teaching Collin to write, and soon, do math.

The only problem is that once the mat is saturated, it takes some time (up to 30 minutes) for it to return to a clean slate. That means finding another activity in the interim or rolling it up and calling it a day. At least it’s time well spent.

AquaDoodle is available at Amazon.com and most big box or toy stores. It retails for about $25, with the accessory kit costing an additional $10.
 

January 21, 2014 11:18
By Robyn Barberry

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