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.


December 2014
November 2014

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Wonderful lesson for all ages!


What a great story of determination and desire. As a Curley alumni, let me welcome Colllin to the Curley family. I'll see you when you officially put on the red and black track and field uniform of the Friars!



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Etsy: Your one-stop-shop for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts

At Christmas time, we give each other gifts just as the Magi bestowed frankincense, gold, and myrrh on baby Jesus, who is the greatest gift anyone could ever know. The tradition of Christmas gifts shared among loved ones is beautiful … but sometimes it can be so frustrating!!! What do you buy for the person who tends to shy away from anything new or different? Or the person whose interests change so quickly you’re always two steps behind? And who could forget – “the person who has everything?!?!”

After throwing my hands up in the air, I stopped my annual sojourn to the mall and took a tour on the Amazon, instead . With my Prime membership, I am guaranteed free two-day delivery on hundreds of thousands of items. Here is where I find great prices and availability on those things that normally would cost me a parking nightmare, long lines, and murky encounters with other stressed-out shoppers – the kind which make me question the spirit of Christmas.

But, even the Amazon jungle has its limits. Sometimes I’m looking for something unique; something that doesn’t come from a factory; something that isn’t buried under plastic in a box. This used to require hit-or-miss trips to craft fairs and expensive commissioned pieces. This year, I’ve been finding treasures on Etsy, an online marketplace for artists, artisans, crafters, antique dealers, and other creative minds to peddle their wares.

I started using Etsy as a venue for finding graphic designs for invitations and games for Frank’s Dr. Seuss-themed first birthday party, but soon I branched out into fine jewelry for my mom, reusable The Very Hungry Caterpillar sandwich and snack bags (perfect for St. Joan of Arc’s waste-free Wednesday lunches), and everything a little boy could ever want that has a lion on it (sorry, Leo! You’ll just have to get used to it).

Lion Cupcake Topper available at PrettyPalace1

Crochet lion newborn bonnet by kreativkris.  Screen printed personalized lion pillow by zoeysattic.  Custom first birthday lion bib by grandmasbabyboutique.

I have been able to find things I never imagined just by typing a word into the search tab. (I just tried “Nativity” and found all of these diversely beautiful things!)  Every seller I have dealt with has been professional, flexible, and eager to please.

My business-savvy best friend, Rachel, and her talented husband, Dave, sell his iconic Baltimore-themed photographs at their 13th Hour Photography Etsy store. Dave uses a special metallic paper to make his art appear 3-D. Dave says, “It’s so rewarding knowing that someone spent their hard-earned money on purchasing a piece of my artwork. Whether they bought it to display in their home or give as a gift, it means so much to me personally.”

Baltimore Ravens Win Superbowl XXXV Crab Art Print by 13thhourphoto.

So if you have a talent, consider sharing it – and making a little extra dough – on Etsy. And, of course, if you’re looking for a special gift for an O’s fan, Ravens fan, or photography connoisseur, check out 13th Hour Photography.

I wish I could share with you some of the awesome custom Christmas gifts I’ve found so far, but I’d be ruining the surprise for some very special people in my life who just might be reading this!

My suggestion: start shopping on Etsy soon. Like the second you finish reading this. Craftsmanship takes time – and so does shipping. (We have a few things coming from Europe that we ordered two weeks ago). So, what are you waiting for?!?! That perfect present is a click away!

December 12, 2014 03:41
By Robyn Barberry

Off to see the wizard

Don’t tell the FBI, but when I was 5 I made a poster advertising a screening of The Wizard of Oz and hung it in our living room window. I was charging 25 cents, and my brother and I were in our makeshift Dorothy and Tin Man costumes, waiting for the VHS tape to rewind. (My mom had recorded the movie when it aired on channel 13. I still remember exactly where the commercials interjected, offering us time to go to the bathroom and/or get a snack.)

Our theater boasted a 19-inch screen and two yellow plastic Little Tykes chairs. It was so much better than when we used to watch it in black and white.

Flash forward to 2012. I’m bundling up a 13-day-old Leo in a yellow blanket and the lion bonnet I had a lady from Etsy make just for him. Frank’s Tin Man costume already ripped up the side, and Collin’s homemade Scarecrow hat looks pretty darned close to the one from the movie. We watch it several times a week, even though Frank, like his uncle, is a little scared of the Wicked Witch.

It’s still one of my favorite movies of all time. I can recite every word in my head. I have a pair of ruby slippers.

Obviously I’ve been a big fan for a long time for reasons I can’t even begin to get into. But, I’ve never experienced The Wizard of Oz like I did last Sunday, when I saw it on the big screen for the very first time at the Senator.

My mom, my aunt, my cousin, Collin and I settled into comfy seats with popcorn, peanut chews, and Swedish fish, the curtains closed before us. We couldn’t wait to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

After Betty Boop’s Snow White ended, and all but a few kernels of our popcorn remained, that familiar overture boomed through the speakers, rumbling the ground below us, the “young at heart” for which this film was dedicated.

As the all-too-familiar picture unfolded, I found myself seeing and hearing details I’d never noticed before. A sign painted on Professor Marvel’s caravan indicated that he was a “balloon exhibitionist.”

The munchkins became individuals, rather than a bright blur of tiny faces. “That’s me; that’s Frank, and that’s Leo,” Collin pointed out when the Lollipop Guild did their little song and dance for Dorothy. He continued to point “himself” (the guy in the green plaid shirt) out. It was easy to follow that particular munchkin when he was so…big.

I admit I was a little afraid when Dorothy and the guys were wandering through the woods. Collin and I held onto each other when the Cowardly Lion read the sign: “I’d turn back if I were you.” Those Flying Monkeys are terrifying when they’re 8 feet tall!

I focused on every word of every song, laughing with the rest of the audience at the appropriate times, clapping when the Witch was dead. (Ding! Dong!)

The most dramatic moment, as you can imagine, is when Dorothy opens the door that leads from Kansas to Munchkinland and color, glorious color, gushes through the screen. The audience gasped and applauded just as it must have 75 years ago.

Seeing The Wizard of Oz at the Senator was like putting on a pair of glasses and a set of hearing aids. The movie means even more to me now that I’ve seen it under a magnifying glass, soaking up the details of the costumes, the sets, the special effects, and heard it through an amplifier: every creak, every rustle, every note of the orchestra, and every whisper of desperation for a brain, a heart, a home, the nerve.

Above all, I was locked in and focused expressly on the masterpiece before me. I wasn’t folding laundry or pressing pause to break up a fight about a toy. I didn’t check my phone once the entire time. Those 101 minutes were dedicated to The Wizard of Oz.
After running into a fellow St. Joan of Arc teacher and her three spectacular daughters that I’m lucky enough to call my students, we left, our minds buzzing our hearts fluttering.

I can’t wait to return to the Senator for some more of their special showings.  On December 20th, at 10:00 a.m., they will be airing another one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life, for charity. Bring a few canned goods, and I’ll see you there!  

December 02, 2014 04:49
By Robyn Barberry

'Beautiful Oops!'

I am a murderer of trees. All art teachers are. We go through more paper than The Baltimore Sun.

“Can I get some more paper?” asks the girl in the jumper who tugs at my shirtwaist. “I made my house too big.”

“Mrs. Barberry! I need to start over!” one student will shout, holding up a crayon portrait. He’s made an X over an asymmetrical face.

Swish, swish, swish, the sheets disappear before me and become butterflies and monsters and those broads from Frozen and inevitably a conglomeration of squares from Minecraft. And sometimes they’re not perfect. But, isn’t that okay?

I needed an intervention; a way to teach the kids to be resourceful. And creative. And confident in their abilities.

So, I consulted the manual on all of those things. A book that would make the medicine behind my message go down smoothly and sweetly.

Enter  "Beautiful Oops" by Barney Saltzberg. With more color than Collin’s 152 crayon collection, fun little characters, and an important message about art and life, it was just what the Lorax ordered.

Each page shows a different “problem,” like a paint splatter or an unsightly crease, along with a whimsical “solution,” like turning it into an animal.

I’ve always loved books with “special effects,” and this one is full of them. From fun textures to flips and folds and an accordion-style pop-up that elicited elated gasps, I never lost a second of attention from even one member of my easily-distracted audience of kindergarteners and first graders.

Naturally, there was an assignment to go along with the book. Can you guess what they did?

I gave each student a piece of paper that was in some way damaged. Some of it was my recycling, some was crumbled up, some burned, some ripped, some with fingerprints, some with eraser-smudged pencil marks, and so on.

I was astonished by the results! A curvy piece of torn paper became a snowboarding course. A streak of highlighter became a kite string. Sharpie dots became a woman’s shirt. A gash in the middle of the page became a pop-up beaver. Collin (he’s my student as well as my son) turned teeth-like cuts into tabs for an x-ball machine. (He may have meant Xbox, but he has no idea what that is…)
A gash in the middle of the page became a pop-up beaver

Collin turned teeth-like cuts into tabs for an x-ball machine.

The students excitedly shared their assignments to their classmates’ amusement. They were so excited about their work that I let them take their “beautiful oopses” home. I just wish I’d taken more pictures!

At the end of class, I reminded them of the real lesson. Instead of throwing something away, why not turn it into something different? Fix it. Change it. Give it a second chance. You never know what a little ingenuity can do.

November 20, 2014 03:58
By Robyn Barberry

Born to run

It is like something out of a dream. A stadium full of people chanting his name, “Col-lin! Col-lin!” as he weaves his way around the track, through the field, up the hill and back. Five years old, but hanging with the fourth graders in this, his first, ¾ mile race. The one question on everyone’s mind, “Can he do it?”

Flash forward to the day before. A conversation on the walk home from school.

“Collin, you’re going to after care tomorrow.”

“Where are you going to be?”

“I’m going to a race.”

“You’re running?”

“Not this time. A couple of the boys from running club are running in a race. It’s at Bob-Bob’s high school, where Becky works, Archbishop Curley.”

“I want to go.”

“You’re too little. Maybe when you get a little older.”

“I can do it,” he said. “Watch!”

He ran the 1/8 of a mile ahead of us to our front door.

“See! I told you! I can do it!”

“It’s further than that,” I told him. “It’s like running to the bowling alley.” He was used to our Tuesday excursions to Bowling Club.

But, he normally ended up hitching a ride on my stroller.

“Aww, please!” he insisted.

“Let me think about it,” I said.

I reread the flyer for the Archbishop Curley Cross Country Classic. The youngest age group was 4th grade and under. The distance was ¾ of a mile. I imagined one of my kindergarten students’ parents approaching me and asking me if his or her son or daughter could participate. Based on the information before me, I’d say they qualified. And so did Collin.

“You can go,” I told him. “But you have to run. You can’t stop. You have to keep going.”

“Okay,” he said.

Before I knew it, I was writing his name on a paper bib (number 61) and pinning it to his navy blue St. Joan of Arc Sweatshirt. I surveyed the crowd. He was the littlest kid there. Everyone else seemed to be noticing, too. I overheard their whispers as we walked by, “How old is that kid?” I struggle with a severe “Imposter Complex,” so I began to wonder if I was making a huge mistake.

By chance, Patrick was working on one of Curley’s athletic fields, so he made arrangements to spectate, as did my dad, who is a dutiful Curley alum, and Collin’s godmother, Becky, who teaches Spanish there. We watched each heat take off from the track, break through the fence, dominate a monster of a hill, tear through the top tier of the stadium, and round back down the hill into the home stretch of the track. The oldest students did it twice, while the younger groups fought their way around once.

Once. That’s all it would take for Collin to finish the race. As he bounced up and down cheering on our two runners, I imagined him stumbling up the hill, falling to the ground in tears until I came to rescue him. I pictured him veering off of course. I saw a vision of Collin quitting before he even made his way through the fence. My students, on the other hand, finished strong and made me proud.

When it was time for the fourth grade and under boys to line up, we barely made it to the track on time. As soon as Collin set his toe on the line, the gun went off, and so did he.

He fell behind just as soon as he started; his short, little 5-year-old legs no match for the brawn of the seasoned 9-year-old athletes. Patrick and I followed him on the ground, all the way to the fence, where a Curley student acting as a course marshal decided to abandon his post (Collin was, after all, the very last runner) and join Collin for his adventure. I looked at his face and thought I saw him crying. He smiled and waved.

Patrick and I stood at the base of the hill, our hearts pounding, watching in anxious anticipation as he ran toward the sky. We cheered him along, yelling out his name. Suddenly, a man with a radio voice joined us. “And coming up the hill right now is Collin Barberry, a kindergartener from St. Joan of Arc, and the youngest runner to ever compete in the Curley Classic. Let’s cheer him on!”

The fourth graders were finishing in bursts as Collin reached the top of the bowl. A line of spectators formed above the top row of the stadium, reaching down to give Collin “high-5”s. He tagged every single one, back-tracking if he needed to.

He kept up with his running partner all the way back down the hill and powered through his final stretch. The crowd went wild as the little blond-haired boy in the rumpled navy blue sweat suit crossed the finish line.

I ran over to him. He was panting, his face crimson. His hair had taken on the form of a stormy sea, wet, wild, and wavy. He looked like a grown man for a minute. Then, I saw that his shoe was untied and remembered that he was so little that he didn’t even know how to tie it. “I’m sorry I doubted you,” I told him as I turned his royal blue laces into bunny ears.

Patrick, my Dad, Becky and I swarmed him with hugs and forced him into a million photo ops. A lovely young lady, Caroline Kogler, approached us and offered Collin some Powerade and candy (Father Matt tried to steal some of Collin’s Skittles!) and told us that Collin would be receiving a medal.

“Look, Mom! I earned a medal!” he said, proudly raising the bronze coin on the red, white, and blue ribbon around his neck. It didn’t matter that he was the last runner to finish. What mattered was that he did finish, even though no one expected him to. Not even me.

Collin opened himself to the possibility of success. And everything else fell into place. I’m so grateful for that young man who ran beside Collin like a guardian angel. I thank Ms. Kogler for formally recognizing Collin. That’s not why we came, but it made his first race extra special for him. I’m honored to have been a part of the Archbishop Curley Cross Country Classic, and thank Mr. Gene Hoffman for giving Collin the opportunity to participate in this outstanding event.

Above all, thanks be to God for giving Collin strength of body, mind, spirit, and will to complete such a challenging feat. I learned more about my son in those 12 minutes than I have since the day he was born.    

November 13, 2014 04:02
By Robyn Barberry

"Love, Serve, Teach"

Like myself and my St. Joan of Arc counterparts, Beth Awalt loves her job.  As the volunteer manager at Catholic Charities' Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, she spends her days welcoming those who wish to serve to a facility that provides housing and training to over 275 homeless men and women.

The bounce in Beth's step and her winning smile warmed the gray October morning when the St. Joan of Arc faculty (myself included) arrived for our annual retreat.  This would be a professional development like no other.  We would be on our feet, working side-by-side, talking and laughing, spending our time together doing something that matters.

I was expecting the facility to be some dim industrial space with nondescript walls and dirty floors.  Instead,  the Weinberg Center was bright and clean, with inspiring works of art EVERYWHERE.  Everyone I encountered was friendly- employees, volunteers, and residents alike.

We toured the dorms, which are empty during the day while residents work or socialize in two large lounges at the very front of the building (one for men and one for women).  We learned the rules of the place and that they help maintain a sense of peace in the community.  And then, we made sandwiches.  Lots of them. 

In the cafeteria area, we arranged ourselves alongside about two dozen loaves of bread and jars of peanut butter and jelly.  Each of us had a role in assembling these "emergency meals" for the Weinberg Center to provide for people who, for various reasons, are unable to participate in scheduled meal times.  We lost count, but we made enough sandwiches to fill a 35 gallon plastic bin to the top!

We also stopped briefly at Our Daily Bread.  Once again, it was a far cry from the gloomy gray room I'd always pictured.  The entire first floor was abuzz with excitement.  Change for the better exuded from the computer lab where men in the Christopher Place Academy prepared themselves for life in the workforce.  Lively conversation and the aroma of lasagna filled the air of the bright cafe, which looked more like my award-winning college cafeteria than the soup kitchens I'd seen in movies.  My big takeaway: they need us to make casseroles.  Recipes are available here.

Next, we took a tour of the Basilica.  I hadn't been there since I was confirmed 15 years ago, and found myself most impressed by the paintings of the Evangelists that were discovered in the dome during renovations and, of course, the crypt.  Photographs and artifacts from St. John Paul the Great's visit to Baltimore brought back memories of my incredible privilege of being present that day.  Of course, I visited the gift shop and  narrowed my selection down to a special cross that spoke to me.  As we were leaving, we spied none other than Archbishop Lori, who was taking his beautiful dog for a well-deserved walk.

We ended our day by breaking bread at Mick O'Shea's.  While laughing with colleagues and learning more about their lives, I thanked The Lord for allowing me to be a part of such an extraordinary school family and for the life of comfort I live.    

November 04, 2014 09:17
By Robyn Barberry


On Saturday, amidst great fanfare, Leo graduated from having his life measured in months to having his life measured in years. In other words, he turned 1… and we celebrated.

Have you ever wondered why first birthday parties are such a big deal? Why is so much effort put into an occasion the guest of honor is unlikely to remember? And the details!

The party was held on the sod farm. The sunshine illuminated everything, while the wind tormented the orange, yellow, turquoise, and spring green tablecloths and balloons. The lion piñata swayed back and forth as we weighted down the plates and napkins which starred an adorable yellow lion with an orange mane. He was holding on to a blue balloon. “1” it read. 

Both grandfathers prepared their famous chili (vegetarian and venison). Patrick whipped up his first batch of real macaroni and cheese. Our friends at Chick-fil-a delighted kids of all ages with their crowd-pleasing chicken nuggets. A very dear friend prepared 6 dozen cupcakes: chocolate, vanilla, and pumpkin spice. She even made a little lion smash cake. And with all that food, it was a real fight to keep the bees away.

My sister-in-law hid some cannonball pumpkins (about the size of a grapefruit) in an open grass field. A short hayride led us there, and the children squealed as they “picked” their pumpkins from our “patch.”

The candle wouldn’t stay lit, so poor Leo didn’t really get to make his wish. (I made one for him.) I’m not sure why, but he was hesitant to tear into his little lion cake. (His brothers didn’t mind.) Of course, he was spoiled with toys, books, and new clothes (always nice when you’re the third son!)

The party was delightful, but it wasn’t because of the details I just mentioned. Soon, they will fade from everyone’s memory. Even mine. But the thing that will stick around is the warmth and love we felt that day.

Like a wedding, a first birthday party isn’t just about the people who are being celebrated; it’s about the contributions made by loved ones in bringing them to this point. Leo’s first birthday party wasn’t just about him reaching a major milestone; it was a way of honoring his brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. These were the people who fed him, changed him, bathed him, clothed him, played with him, and read to him during his infancy. These were the people who nurtured him and helped him grow into the toddler he is becoming. And I’m grateful for each one of them.

I haven’t written much about Leo. I wanted the first year to be just for us. But I will tell you that he is quite sweet, patient, forgiving (especially to Frank, who has a tendency to bite, hit, and be rough with him), curious, and almost always smiling. He loves his kitty cats (and animals in general), every kind of food (even Brussels sprouts!), patty-cakes, Sesame Street, and stealing travel-sized toiletries from underneath the bathroom sink. He’s happy, healthy, strong, and lovely – all the things we prayed for when he was still living in my tummy. As he grows, you’ll get to know him better. I’m looking forward to it, too. 

October 22, 2014 01:12
By Robyn Barberry

The math lesson

I always joke that part of the reason I chose to major in English is that I wouldn’t need math. My distaste for numbers began in third grade when I struggled to learn my times tables. In sixth grade, the letters showed up next to my numbers, and rather than rising to the challenges Algebra offered, I resorted to doodling in the margins of my notebook. I took the most basic math class I could in college, “Mathematical Ideas,” then turned my back on calculations and equations for nearly a decade. I taught myself algebra last summer to prepare for my real estate exam, but there are still more holes in my math education than there are digits in pi.

So when Dr. Peter Litchka and Dr. Peter Rennert-Ariev of Loyola University, the directors of the revolutionary professional development program St. Joan of Arc has joined alongside several other Archdiocese of Baltimore schools, asked my colleagues and I to go “out of our comfort zones” and observe another teacher from another subject area, I knew where I was heading.
Enter Kim Evelyn (pronounced “EEVE-lin”), the middle school math teacher at SJA. She invited me to visit her sixth-grade class on a Wednesday morning to observe a lesson on decimals. 

Class began with a homework check, a quiz, and an awesome and unexpected prayer.

Mrs. Evelyn defied the traditional model of teaching by spending less than 10 minutes in front of the board introducing the new topic: decimal place value. “Remember: this is the pennies column and this is the dimes column,” she explained. I wish I’d learned that in sixth grade!

Students spent a short period of guided practice time delving into the fascinating task of measuring gerbil’s tails to the required decimal place (within the confines of their textbooks, of course.) And then, the most exciting thing happened … the iPads came out.

An air of giddiness swept through the room as students fired up their tablets and logged into an interactive program called IXL. IXL is an online, subscription-based program available for preK-high school levels. It covers both math and language arts and includes a variety of problems and games, all of which offer incentives (ribbons), scores, and constructive feedback.

The students were so engaged in the program that you could hear the tapping of their fingers on the glass screens of their iPads. Occasionally someone would exclaim, “I got a ribbon!” Mrs. Evelyn circumnavigated the room, spending a little more time with those students who weren’t grasping the concept and awarding those who finished with a small piece of candy.

Before I knew it, class was over. I was even a little disappointed, as I had been playing along on my phone. (IXL offers 20 free questions a day!) What a striking difference from the days when I tried to nudge the minute hand forward by squinting at it, rather than moving time forward by busily focusing on the problems in front of me. The marriage of technology and the modern, “guide by the side, rather than sage on the stage,” philosophy of teaching have transformed the way students learn. Mrs. Evelyn’s classroom reflects that. It’s a glimpse of the future of education. And it’s exciting.

October 16, 2014 02:56
By Robyn Barberry

Breaking barriers

My house is a maze of gates and obstacles so complex that the CIA should be stopping by for security tips. I have contrived the perfect geometrical configuration with my ottoman and double stroller to keep Leo from climbing upstairs. There is a complicated system of locks for just about every door in my house, especially the bathrooms and the ones that separate the child-safe world I’ve created from the scary one on the other side. The gate between the living room and the kitchen is so wide and so tall that my mind has convinced itself that a wall exists where a convenient doorway once stood. But, the poor gate between the dining room and the kitchen was the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam.

Inevitably, the barriers I set to protect my children from the places and things which might hurt them –will break. Leo gained the upper and lower body strength to push that stroller aside –brake or no brake- as though it were his toy train. When a startling silence crept from the toy room where Frank and Leo were playing to the kitchen where I scrubbed a pot of oatmeal, I grew concerned. I went upstairs and found the bathtub running, a towel in the toilet, and my contact lens case in pieces on the floor. (Fortunately, I was wearing them.) And that poor gate, that final fortress that safeguarded my kitchen, laundry room, powder room, storage room, and the door that leads to the great big world – has been reduced to mere child’s play. Literally.

I found out the hard way. I locked Leo into his rocking chair and put on Sesame Street. “Mommy’s going to take a shower,” I told Collin and Frank, whose attention had been arrested by a felt friend with a face. “Be good.”

When I returned downstairs, fifteen minutes later, Leo was sound asleep. Frank and Collin were nowhere to be found. So, I followed the sound of the giggles. There they were. Standing on my kitchen counter. Next to the knife block. Fortunately the chef’s knife, santuku, parer and all their friends were where I had left them. Unfortunately, the memory card of Frank’s baby pictures I had left on the windowsill – was not. (I still haven’t found it!)

I shooed them out of the kitchen and scolded Collin for opening the gate for Frank. “But I didn’t,” he said, “He climbed over the gate himself.” I was double mad at Collin for lying until I watched as Frank lunged himself over the hurdle like a runner effortlessly dashing toward his goal. I put him back in the dining room, but once again he forced his way back into the kitchen. When I blocked the gate, he redirected himself to the identical gate in the toy room, which took him right to the pantry, where he discovered he could finally get snacks for himself. I heard the rustling of the Goldfish package before I even saw him.

The gig was up. My efforts to keep Frank and his crazy Frank antics to one half of the lower level of my home were falling apart as quickly as he was growing. In theory, we were playing a board game -chess, checkers, Risk, Stratego, Battleship…it’s all the same – and I lost. But then I thought about it.

·                    Frank is exploring a world he up until recently knew only as a blur of colors as I escorted him from the back door to his “safe space.” He avoids the things with which he has had negative experiences (cat food and litter, for one) and thoroughly investigates the things that light up or make noise (refrigerator, dishwasher, dryer…fortunately, he’s accepted my word that the stove is “hot.”) The back half of the house is where food comes from. It’s the source of mysterious noises: the flush of a toilet, the rattling of the washer, the hum and ding of the microwave. It’s the place where Mom spends an inordinate amount of time. Why shouldn’t he be there?

·                    If Frank is intelligent and tenacious enough to thwart my traps, then maybe those character traits will carry on into other aspects of his life. When used properly, such as standing up for what is right and just or even chasing a ball on an athletic field, they can be tremendous strengths.

·                    Frank’s job, and the job of all children, is to test the limits. To gradually detach from us so that they can live independently. This is just another big step in that journey. I pray that God protects him now that he has found his way into the most dangerous part of the house. I pray that God protects him every time his curiosity about the world leads him beyond the fences we’ve created for him.

The day after Frank set foot upon his brave new world, something awesome happened. I was bringing a load of laundry downstairs when I heard another scuffle in the kitchen. There, I found Frank, climbing the lazy Susan cabinet to get to the counter top. He looked over his shoulder at me and said, “Mommy, I need help.” It was the first sentence I ever heard him utter. Another barrier broken. In my excitement and without thinking, I put him on the counter. When I realized what I’d done, I put him back on the ground, hugged him, and told him that he can always ask me for help. There just might be a gate or two along the way.

September 30, 2014 11:56
By Robyn Barberry

After the fall

I was hot gluing a twig to a piece of blue construction paper when one of the little girls in my preschool class came running over to show me the red and green prints she made with half an apple.

Suddenly, she tripped over a chair leg and crashed to the ground. Please God, don’t let her be hurt, I thought as I stooped down to help her up. I expected there to be tears, but instead she jumped to her feet, straightened her uniform and said, “I’m okay. I should have been more careful. Next time I will do better.”

It was such a simple thing to say; a perfectly rational way to look at a mistake, but it’s something we adults often fail to do. Everyone trips and falls some time, but no one wants to admit to their faults. It’s just too shameful. It’s so much easier to redirect responsibility and blame someone or something else (“Stupid chair!”). It’s so much easier to run away and hide or to pretend nothing happened. 

This little girl did none of those things. She recognized her mistake. She realized that it wasn’t something that was going to ruin her life or her day. She reflected on what she could have done. And she reminded herself to avoid situations like this in the future. She forgave herself, just as God forgives us.  So, the next time you trip and fall, pick yourself up and say, “I’m okay. I should have been more careful. Next time I will do better.”


September 22, 2014 10:00
By Robyn Barberry

Painting with mud

“Dirt,” the second-grade teacher told me when I asked her what they were learning in science class.  Since St. Joan of Arc is a STEM school, I’m trying to tie material from other classes into my art lessons. The eighth grade was learning about heat, so we used a hot plate and crayons to create melted wax images on aluminum foil. The seventh-grade was learning about solubility, so we combined salt and watercolor paints for a cool tie-dye effect. But, dirt?

Naturally, I consulted Google for advice. I found a home-school mom’s website with pictures from a mud day.  Her children were encapsulated in dirt and mud. I decided rather quickly that I should make every effort to keep my students’ uniforms crisp and white.

Then, I stumbled upon something awesome: the dirty car artist, Scott Wade. This guy carves masterpieces into the thick dirt found on the back windows of people’s cars.  But, where was I going to find 18 dirty cars (and stepstools) to make this happen?

Louisiana Mud Painting looked promising, until I learned that I’d need to travel all over Harford County –and perhaps even the state of Maryland—to find the many types of soil I’d need to offer a range of colors.

I was stumped and running out of time.  That’s usually when I pray. I fixed myself a sandwich (also a good time to pray) and returned to Google one last time before deferring to a plan B assignment. This time, I stumbled upon something new: Korhogo Cloth (African Mud Painting)

The material used for the painting looked similar to burlap.  I had a roll of it left over from Collin’s Scarecrow costume last year and a pot of dirt that used to be a plant (I’m a horrible gardener for a farmer’s wife), so I mixed some dirt and water in a plastic bowl and used one of Frank’s old paintbrushes to paint a house on the fabric.  It looked great, but when I moved it after it dried, all of the mud flaked off.

As it turned out, it needed a binder.  We were out of eggs, so I used some brown tempera paint (it has egg as a binder) to make the mud smoother and stickier.  This time, it looked great.  I mixed up a bucketful for the students, poured into little white plastic bowls, warned them that even though it looked like chili, they shouldn’t eat it, and let them go to town on their pieces of burlap.

Thanks to God for directing me to a cool project idea, the students’ projects were a great success.




September 09, 2014 02:44
By Robyn Barberry

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