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.

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We like Celebree - they have been good for our son. He also has some challenges developmentally. Good luck to you.

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Unconditional

Messy Mondays




In the lime green room, plastic  covers the floor.  It’s the perfect setup for the birth of a Jackson Pollack masterpiece, but today’s artists are much smaller.  Toddlers waddle across the canvas in onesies and diapers armed with a variety of painting tools, their parents chatting and distributing red, orange, yellow, green, and blue paint to their little Picassos.  Everyone is having so much fun that it’s hard to believe it’s Monday.

This is no ordinary Monday, it’s Messy Monday at The Creative Cow, a family art center in Forest Hill, Maryland.  Once a month, children aged 9-24 months are invited to explore their creative (and social) all while painting a keepsake work of art.  The cost is $10 per child for a one hour session, and the best part is that the mess stays there!

My friend Rachel and her 18-month-old son, Mason, invited us to Messy Monday in May.  Our designated project was a canvas with a metallic letter (“M” for Mason; “L” for Leo) stuck to the middle.  The boys (okay, mostly the moms) painted around their letter and removed it to find their special letter in a white space surrounded by bursts of color.  They even used the tires on toy cars to paint! 



The highlight of the night was when the hosts brought out shaving cream and the little guys smeared it all over the big paper, all over their bellies, and all in their hair.  Some parents were the victims of shaving cream attacks as well.

The bright, energetic room bubbled over with laughter, but some very important learning was happening, too.  In addition to practicing fine motor skills, the toddlers were tapping into the right sides of their brains, where outside-the-box thinking originates.  This kind of thinking is essential to developing problem-solving skills that will help them make the world a little bit better when they grow up.  But for now, let’s just let them make messes.

Creative Cow will be hosting another Messy Monday on July 13th at 6 pm.  Register by emailing thecreativecowinc@gmail.com and dress for the mess!



    

June 30, 2015 11:13
By Robyn Barberry


Together in any weather: an anniversary story

Our plan was to drop off the boys at their grandparents’ house and head to Philadelphia so that Patrick and I could celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. God had other plans.

It started with a phone call from my mother-in-law as we scrambled to leave the house; a storm was on its way. “She worries too much,” Patrick said, as we shoved shoes on the boys. Before we even made it to the end of the street, a robo-call featuring the calm and pleasant voice of Harford County Emergency Manager Rick Ayers warned us of a Flash Flood threat. “We’re headed to higher ground,” I said. “We’ll be fine.” But, it was the ear-piercing squeal coming from my phone at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru that derailed us. This time, it was the Emergency Broadcast System alerting us to take shelter immediately. This was NOT a test.

We pulled under the awning at Home Depot and studied the radar on Patrick’s phone as buckets of rain and rapid force winds attacked customers struggling to push their orange carts to the comfort of their vehicles. The worst part of the storm heading straight from Baltimore to Philadelphia…and here we were stuck directly in the middle. Would we make it?

I had been looking forward to our trip all day. In Philadelphia, there are several restaurants that offer incredible vegan food, like the Spaghetti Sandwich and Coconut Club at Memphis Taproom. (There’s even a dairy-free dessert paradise called Little Baby’s.) I’d already settled on a chocolate “ice cream” sandwich when the “change-of-plans” discussion started.

But, it was a conversation we had to have.

“It’s going to be so late by the time we get there that the restaurant will be shutting down,” Patrick said.

“We could go somewhere in Baltimore,” I said.

“That’s just as far away.”

“True...Let’s try somewhere new,” I said, remembering that a place called Birroteca had just opened in Bel Air.  By this point, the storm had passed, so it was safe to drop off the boys and head out on our “recalculated” adventure.

I decided to scope out the place first.  I dashed into the restaurant wearing a hot pink rain jacket and turquoise paisley rain boots.  Before I even finished asking the Birroteca hostess with the bright brown eyes if they had anything vegan on the menu, she ran to the chef and came back with a list of specialties he’d be happy to prepare for me, most of which featured vegetables grown right here in Harford County.  

Patrick and I came back in shortly, with me wearing a cute black and white dress and black sandals.  "How did you change so quickly?" the hostess asked.

"It's an old Audrey Hepburn trick," I told her.  She sat us at a table right near a poster for Hepburn's romantic movie "Roman Holiday," which co-starred Gregory Peck, one of my favorite actors. (Sometimes he reminds me of Patrick.) 

My “Locovore” brick oven pizza loaded with asparagus, garlic, blistered tomatoes and arugula was delicious, but sitting next to my favorite person in the world as he enjoyed his shrimp risotto was even better. And we were only fifteen minutes from home.

The best part of the meal (other than being together) was our funny red-headed waitress who talked to us about her three grown boys, one of whom came by to tell her to check out the sky, which she, in turn, pointed out to us. The rain and wind had stopped, but the sky was saturated in a rapidly changing show of colors from gold to burnt orange to mauve to lavender. There had to be a rainbow somewhere nearby. Even if we couldn’t see it, we knew that God was near and that he always keeps his promises.

We thought we wanted something, but forces outside of our control threatened our plans. We didn’t get angry about it. We thought through it, made a change, and found happiness right where we were.

This is just a silly story about being forced to change dinner plans, but Patrick and I try to handle every obstacle we face in the same way. From financial crises to household chores to discipline to medical emergencies, when problems happen, we work together to solve them. Maybe that’s one reason why we’re still married after 8 years.

June 25, 2015 06:53
By Robyn Barberry


Lessons from my dad

When we become parents, we become providers. At first, it’s the basics: a place to live, something to eat, soft fabrics to keep baby warm. Then, we add education: Sunday school, preschool, K-12, college. But, throughout each moment of our lives and theirs we are teaching our children what we think it means to be a good person.

Those informal lessons are what matters most. They’re the kind gestures we don’t expect anyone to notice. They’re teachable moments that have the sticking power of warm spaghetti. They’re the video clips our children burn into their minds and play again and again. My dad has given me a lifetime of memories that have influenced decisions both big and small since the Father’s Day weekend I came home from the hospital as a newborn. Here are a few of those times when my dad stood taller than most men, and encouraged me to join him in making the world a better place.


*****

I’m seven years old, and it’s summer. We are seated three across the blue perforated vinyl bench seat in my dad’s white Chevy S-10 pickup.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“To the recycling center,” he said.

“Why?” I asked. I was bored. I wanted to be in my friend’s pool, not in this hot truck hauling bags of crushed cans across town.

“They’re going to turn these cans into other things instead of throwing them away. It’s going to help save the environment, like the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.

For every summer of my life, my dad and his family had rented a house on the Bay to go fishing and crabbing. My cousins and I swam in the waters of the Chesapeake and played baseball and a million other games of our own imaginations on her shores. Maybe those cans would become a boat or something.

It wasn’t popular or easy to recycle when my dad chose to make his small contribution to the environment, but it stuck with me, and now, especially as an art teacher, I’m quick to reduce, reuse, and recycle. God created this world for us and we must honor Him by taking care of it. That’s what my dad taught me.

*****

I’m fifteen years old, and I’m difficult. My dad and I don’t seem to see eye-to-eye about anything. Sports are his life, and I’ve decided to be an artist. It couldn’t be further from my dad’s world, but he built a bridge to mine and made plans to take me to the Walter’s one day. Reluctantly, I went along, disappearing into the alternative music streaming through my Discman (another thing he didn’t understand). 

On our elevator ride to the second floor, we found ourselves stuck. For half an hour! What else could we do, but talk? I told him that I wanted to study art in college, and he suggested I become an art teacher. I told him it wasn’t what I had in mind, but he reminded me that I have a gift for working with children, that I come from a long line of teachers and that a career in education would offer a stable income for my family. I insisted that I wasn’t interested.

My dad maintained his cool, even when the maintenance man who finally freed us from our trap appeared, sandwich in hand. He and I spent the rest of the day taking in Japanese screen prints and Faberge eggs together, my Discman packed neatly away in my purse. I took the opportunity to teach him the art history and criticism I learned in school, and, without knowing it, he set the foundation for my entire future.

*****

I’m 29, I’ve just delivered my second child, and my beloved cat, Kurt, whom I’ve had since I was in middle school, is very ill. Letting him go was losing a part of who I was; the child who still existed in me. He was black and sleek and affectionate, like every other feline my dad had loved, and watching him dwindle into a bundle of bones with sunken pale yellow eyes was too much to take. The vet said he wouldn’t last but another couple of painful weeks, so I made the hardest choice I’d ever had to make.

And my dad came with me. He and I both held Kurt in his final moments, then we held onto each other. His compassion for animals is unrivaled. Both he and my mom are pretty much vegetarians, and, consequently, so am I. He rescued domestic rabbits that some idiot set loose in the neighborhood. Sometimes he buys a bag of food for the shy cats who live with me now. He believes in being gentle towards the defenseless.

My dad attended Archbishop Curley High School and has a special devotion to St. Francis. Maybe that explains the birdfeeders and houses he keeps throughout the yard. He encourages me to do the same.

*****

I’m still 29. A tree has fallen on my house. My parents open their door. “Stay as long as you need to,” my dad says. They help us with our babies. My dad stays up late nights with Frank. They develop a bond stronger than Velcro. He is patient. He is kind. He is always willing to look after my boys if he’s available. And I can’t ask for a better caregiver because he’s done so much for me.

My dad’s given me my faith. He’s filled my plates with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. He’s gave me a place to call home as a child and as an adult. He’s given me my formal education. But most of all he’s give me and my family love. Thanks for everything, Dad!

June 21, 2015 01:25
By Robyn Barberry


Reflecting on cancer: Relay for Life


I try not to think about cancer. After all the time I’ve spent standing helpless on the sidelines watching good people fight a vicious, faceless force from the inside out, I try not to let my mind collapse under the weight of painful memories and recurring images of human suffering.

In winter of 2015, one of my fourth grade students was battling brain cancer, while my godmother, Bonnie, was battling breast cancer. I had to do something, but I wasn’t an oncologist, so what could I do?

Around this time, former St. Joan of Arc teacher Darla Wallace and current SJA parent Christina Kennedy asked me to join their Relay for Life team, the St. Joan of Arc Holy Walkamolies. I agreed. 

I did a little bit of fundraising and recruiting for the event, which would be held on Friday, June 5, 2015 at the Havre de Grace High School track. One of the biggest features of the event was the circle of luminarias made of decorated white paper bags, which would be ceremoniously lit to honor cancer survivors and those who fought hard, but just couldn’t win.

My mom and I purchased four bags for three generations of women who faced cancer: my grandmother Lillian, my aunt Anne, and her two daughters, Nancy and Bonnie. Aunt Anne and Bonnie’s luminarias were designed to honor their victory and continued fight.  My grandmother and beloved cousin and best friend Nancy’s luminarias were devoted to their memory.  I stuck some of my favorite photographs to each bag with pictures I printed onto giant labels. Seeing my courageous loved ones' names and faces was a reminder of why this event was so important.

When June 5th finally came around, the gloomy skies cleared just in time for the opening ceremonies. Survivors were honored, especially my 4th grader, who was able to cut the ribbon to kick off the night-long celebration of those men, women, and children who have faced the trial of a cancer diagnosis.  



Despite the heavy weight of the event, the environment was light and festive. Food trucks and vendors peddled their wares to happy customers.  People in silly clown costumes with elaborately decorated campsites emphasized the “Cirque de Relay” theme. Spirits were high as walkers lapped the track in team t-shirts and teens played Frisbee and football on the field.

There were ribbons of every shade of the rainbow everywhere I looked and enough luminarias to encompass the entire football stadium. I was surrounded by names, dates, and photos on t-shirts, signs, and white paper bags.  At times I felt like I was observing headstones in a cemetery.  “Why so many people?” I asked God. “Why is there no cure?”   

When the sun set a little after 8, a woman shared the tragic story (she called it a fairy tale) of her family’s cancer fight, when her husband, son, and toddler granddaughter were all battling various forms of the disease at once. But, she was grateful to God for the small windows of remission and breaks from surgery that He gave her to enable her to stay strong emotionally for her loved ones.  The tragedy is that her granddaughter lost the fight. The miracle is that her husband remains free of pancreatic cancer nine years later.

Her story reminded me of my own. How God took Nancy from me, but gave me Collin, and gave us time to be moms together.  How my Aunt Anne is a gift to my family because she keeps us all together when times are tough, just as her mother Lillian did.  And how Bonnie’s positive attitude and commitment to Christ and her family have shown me all the armor a person needs to face any battle.

When the luminarias were all lit, the place went silent. We walked around the track as one unit brought together by the worst of circumstances, making the unanimous decision to take our heartache and turn it back into love.


Mrs. Wallace found Collin near our luminarias, rubbing his fingers across the bag, talking to the people in the pictures. He only had memories of two of them, but he felt connected to them all. “These are my guys,” he told her.

On the way home, I asked Collin if he knew why we were there. (Earlier in the night he thought it was a race and took off at top speed in the opposite direction that our teams were walking). I explained to him that we were celebrating the lives of people who had a disease called cancer, which turns the good parts of your body bad. I told him about some of the people we know who had cancer, including Nancy.

I don’t usually like to talk about her. It makes my chest hurt. It makes it hard to breathe. It makes it hard to talk. It’s a lot like having a heart attack, I guess. But, I told Collin that if he had any questions about her, I’d be happy to answer them.

He did. He wanted to know if we liked to go places together, if she liked to play games, and if she had a car. I laughed while I told him stories and realized that it made me feel good to remember her. It was like she never left.

When we got home (very, very late, I might add), Collin woke Patrick up and told him, “Every bag was for someone we miss.” 

Thinking about cancer isn't easy. In fact, it's downright painful. But, it's important to consider the effect such a devastating disease has on its victims and their loved ones so that their fight is not forgotten. Thank you to Relay for Life for offering us the opportunity to reflect.




   
 

June 11, 2015 10:59
By Robyn Barberry


If the preschool fits: Part 4


In searching for a school for our son Frank, who has developmental delays, we found it difficult to find a warm and safe place where he can play and learn. Here is Part 4 of the four-part series on our visits for the “preschool tour.”

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Part 4: The third time’s a charm:

I shared my frustration with some friends about our two failed attempts at finding an appropriate preschool for my developmentally delayed son, Frank. One friend, whose daughter has similar issues to Frank, recommended a program at a church located at the epicenter of where everyone who cares for Frank lives. I pass by it pretty much every day, and the mom who recommended the school said every day is Open House, so I stopped in unannounced.

The kids were being dismissed by a firm, yet friendly teacher who used visual markers to tell the kids where to stop, line up, and wait for their parents. This is the kind of safety that Frank needs. The teacher introduced me to the director, who welcomed me into her office.

I explained my predicament, trying not to burst into tears.  

“It’s okay,” she said.  “I know where you’re coming from. I had a disabled son who passed away.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay. He’s with the Lord now,” she said. “Would you like to see the school?”

The bright hallways were lined with religious art the children had made. Some of them were still in the classrooms, playing dress-up, blocks, and receiving one-on-one attention from teachers who were working with them on writing letters. I was greeted with smiles from teachers and students alike everywhere I went. I felt God’s presence everywhere I turned.

“Can I bring Frank back tomorrow?” I asked. 

“Absolutely,” she said.

The next day, Frank, Leo, my parents (who were keeping the boys for the rest of the day), and I took a tour while all of the kids were there. Frank, who is extremely shy, hugged my dad’s legs at first, but within a few minutes, he was playing in the toy kitchen. The other preschoolers were interested in Frank. He even smiled at a few of them.  

While I walked around the room, I found locks and alarms on the doors to the outside. There was nothing dangerous in sight. Only an abundance of toys, art supplies, and even a piano.

Frank ran into my friend’s little girl, who he plays with twice a week at t-ball. They were excited to see each other. It’s good to know that they will be classmates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the fall.

I had a gradual sense that this was the right place for Frank when I first walked in the door and saw the kids waiting patiently for their parents, eager to reveal the details of their day. I ran into a few people I know, and the coincidences and connections were astonishing. When I met the woman who will be Frank’s teacher, I told her that in addition to being sweet, curious, and super smart, he’s developmentally delayed and a bit of a handful.  

She said, “This is the perfect place for him.”

And I agreed.


June 08, 2015 11:50
By Robyn Barberry


If the preschool fits: Part 3


In searching for a school for our son Frank, who has developmental delays, we found it difficult to find a warm and safe place where he can play and learn.  Here is the story of one of our visits on the “preschool tour.”


Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.


A week after a disappointing visit to a church preschool, Frank and I visited another preschool (not church affiliated) for their open house. From the very beginning, the program director pushed the hard sell.

“Which program are you interested in? When is his birthday? Did you know that we offer daycare?” were the first questions she asked. (I don’t think she ever even asked our names.)

She escorted us into a classroom where two teachers were dancing with the class. Frank wasn’t interested and began investigating the toys in the classroom. His back was turned to us, and the lady said, “Frank, let’s go take a look at our beautiful playground.” He was sorting through a tool set, arranging everything neatly. She repeated herself, frustrated. I grabbed Frank, who kicked and screamed his way outside until he saw a basketball court.

“What do you think of this school, Frank? Do you want to come here?” she said.  But, he was off.

“He has a receptive language delay,” I explained, “So, sometimes he has trouble understanding us.”

Suddenly, the dollar signs over our heads waned.  

“Excuse me,” she said, abandoning me for another family. I let Frank play basketball for a few minutes, expecting her to come back. She didn’t, so I rounded up Frank once more, kicking and screaming even harder this time, and told her we were leaving.

She handed me a glossy packet full of photographs that looked staged.

“Thanks for coming by!” she said with the enthusiasm of a worn-out flight attendant.

I was defeated. Maybe Frank wasn’t ready for school. Maybe school wasn’t ready for Frank. Like any parent, I want what’s best for my child. Like any parent of a child with special needs, our “best” is hard to find. Sometimes we feel unwanted. I decided a long time ago that if I’m not wanted somewhere to move on, but where?


Part 4 of this four-part series will go online on June 9.


June 08, 2015 11:09
By Robyn Barberry


If the preschool fits: Part 2


Our preschool search...

Part 2: First Impressions

In searching for a school for our son Frank, who has developmental delays, we found it difficult to find a warm and safe place where he can play and learn.  Here is the story of one of our visits on the “preschool tour.”

When I visited my first choice preschool for Frank, my three-year-old son with developmental delays, I was feeling anxious.  He needed so much more attention and patience than most kids his age.  Frank needed a teacher who modeled Jesus’ gentle way with children.  

With that in mind, I thought that a church school would offer the support Frank needed.  (Unfortunately, it’s not St. Joan of Arc, Aberdeen where I worship, work, and send Collin to school.  We’re still working on getting a 3-year-old program.  I’ll let you know when we do!) I rang the doorbell to a highly recommended church preschool and was greeted by a kind grandmotherly-type who warmly greeted Frank, Leo, and me.  But, in the classroom behind her, I heard a woman screaming at the 3-year-olds about a picture she was trying to take.

I wanted to turn around and walk out, but the older lady was so kind and excited to show us around.  I tried to be open-minded, but I had visions of Frank bursting into tears because his teacher couldn’t control her emotions enough to utilize a gentler form of discipline (which he certainly needs).  Everyone has bad days and every teacher has to raise his or her voice sometimes, but there is never an excuse for screaming in the way that she did.

When we visited the HUGE classroom, Leo and I played, participated in circle time, sang, and danced while Frank explored on his own.  Eventually we moved to a smaller room where the lady and I could talk quietly, and Frank could be less distracting to the other boys and girls.

“He’s much better than I was expecting,” she said, referring to our initial conversation several months ago about Frank’s situation and whether or not they could accommodate him.

“He’s come a long way,” I told her, “But he still has some catching up to do.”

“I can tell he thinks a little differently than most kids his age.  He’s like a little engineer or something.”

I laughed.  She understood him.  This might be a good place for him, after all.

“Unfortunately, I’m retiring this year and (the teacher who was yelling) is taking over.  I’ve been here for over thirty years, and I’m hoping she keeps things going the way we have.”

I began to imagine this wonderful program my friends experienced sinking under the watch of someone who lacked the poise and patience that it takes to work with young children, especially one as challenging as mine…who was climbing over the gate and headed for the front door.

“Frank! Come back!” I shouted, but in customary Frank form, he didn’t listen, or hear me, or understand.  I chased after him and held him tight.  Maybe he had the right idea.

I told the kind woman I’d be in touch.  But, I even then knew I’d be offering my regrets.


June 03, 2015 11:30
By Robyn Barberry


If the preschool fits: Part 1



Introduction to our search for the right preschool:


In searching for a school for our son Frank, who has developmental delays, we found it difficult to find a warm and safe place where he can play and learn.  This is the first in a four-part series on our preschool search.

When my oldest son Collin was 3, he attended preschool at the local high school through the “Working with Children” program, which offers high school students considering careers in education the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a teacher.  (I took the classes when I was in high school.  It’s certainly paid off!)  It was a great fit for Collin, who, according to his Spanish teacher, is an “old soul,” since he grew up surrounded by adults and teenagers.  Collin is also extremely social and a very good listener.  He’s the eager learner that fledgling teachers need so that they can gain the confidence to work with all kinds of kids.

Because of my middle son Frank’s speech, language, and developmental delays, Patrick and I decided that the high school program wouldn’t be a good fit for Frank.  Up until now, he’s only been under the direct supervision of his family.  His tendency to find himself in dangerous (and messy) situations is frustrating, as is his inability to understand everything we say or tell us what he wants and needs. We love him unconditionally, so we exercise tremendous patience when enduring trial after trial in order to protect and educate that sweet blue-eyed boy.  Our question is, will someone else be able to endure the challenges of taking care of Frank?  Or will he be dismissed?

Frank’s never been handed over to be cared for by a stranger without a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or very close family friend within sight.  In a group setting, he’s the quiet, investigative type likely to slip away and stumble into trouble like his literary hero, Curious George.  (In fact, I just turned around at my kitchen desk to find an entire pint of blueberries spilled on my floor.)  Frank has needed one-on-one attention since he took his first step.

Still, my husband Patrick, Frank’s speech and special education teachers, and I have decided that it’s going to be best for him to attend preschool in the fall, where his teachers’ attention will be divided between him and his classmates.  At school, Frank will have a more consistent routine, will learn to develop social skills and relationships, and will find a positive outlet for his natural curiosity.  

First and foremost, Frank must be in a safe and nurturing environment.  He escaped our yard the other day, but fortunately, one of the neighbors I introduced him to, brought Frank back home.  All it takes is a split second for Frank to figure out how one of our hundreds of locks works while my head is turned and he’s found a pair of scissors, or dumped a gallon of orange juice on the counter, or climbed to the top shelf of the closet under the stairs, scattering DVDs, photographs, books, and Legos in the process.  I can only imagine the damage he could do to a classroom. (I won’t let him out of the stroller in mine.)

Even I have trouble managing Frank at times, so how would he be with a stranger?  Would I find someone who could keep a close watch on my little escape artist?  Could someone other than a family member offer him the patience and resilience required to endure the many trials he puts us through?  I pray they’ll recognize that even though he doesn’t always comprehend what we say, Frank is shy, gentle, and sweet.  But, sometimes that’s hard to see.

And so, I embarked on a journey to find the perfect (or close to it) preschool for the little boy who challenges me every day to be a better mother and a better Christian.


June 01, 2015 02:13
By Robyn Barberry


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

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