Robyn Barberry writes, teaches, and sells houses.  Most importantly, she is the doting wife of her high school sweetheart and the mother of three precocious little boys.

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Robyn, I'm glad you had a great time in Texas. I encourage you to visit again; next time come to San Antonio! It's only an hour southwest of Austin and has some old and lovely mission churches like the one you mentioned, built in the 1720-1730s. Besides the Alamo (which is a museum - and a replica), there are four other missions on the the San Antonio mission trail, all of them are still functioning Catholic parishes and have Masses (some are in Spanish). The park service has taken over the mission trail; the San Antonio Archdiocese has the parishes. Mission San Jose is the largest and best preserved, Mission Concepcion is lovely as are the tiny Mission San Juan and Mission Espada, which has a still-functioning aquaduct. There is also Mission Espiritu Santo in Goliad, TX which is a small town further into south Texas. I encourage you to look these up on the web, they are fascinating! We always visit new parishes when we travel, it's a great way to mingle with the locals! Catherine (a native Texan) Houston, Texas

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Our middle son lagged as well: preemie, breathing trouble, autism spectrum, low vocab, therapy, the works. A year late to start school. But he started to do much better around puberty. Went to college, graduated on time, is working and living independently, socially engaged. Our sons may not be the same, but we went through years of worry only to have him turn out fine on his own schedule.

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Unconditional

Family unfriendly dining


A popular California restaurant has installed a "no children" policy, including a prominent sign which reads, "No Strollers.  No High Chairs.  No Booster Seats.  Children crying or making loud noises are a distraction to other diners, and as such are not allowed in the dining room."  My brother sent me a link to the article detailing the situation and asked me my opinion.  He was surprised by my response.

Patrick and I established a rule when Collin was an infant that if a restaurant has high chairs and a children’s menu, no one should complain about the presence of our children.  We go out to eat rather frequently, leaning toward not-quite fast food places like Noodles & Company and Chipotle, who offer menu options to cover a broad range of dietary needs at a fair price in less than fifteen minutes. These are the kind of places where the occasional screaming child fades into the background of loud music and the bustle of diners rushing through their meals so they can get to their next destination.

Sometimes we find ourselves in fancier establishments where the meal itself is the destination. We walk in the door, towing three tidy little boys in collared shirts and khakis. There’s always at least one person who shoots us a look of disgust when we’re seated at a nearby table with two high chairs on the end. Usually the wait staff are courteous, offering crayons and children’s menus if they are available. I’ve seen some parents bring iPads to keep their children occupied, but we’ve chosen to train the boys to learn how to wait patiently without electronics (except in a few dire circumstances), mainly by enjoying conversation with each other and playing silly games like, “Find something red.” Collin and Frank do their best to eat neatly, but seeing as how they’re still trying to master their fine motor skills, sometimes they make a mess. Even in a restaurant, we still pick up under their chairs. If the server has been particularly attentive to our children’s needs, as are the phenomenal waitresses at Chopstix in Forest Hill, I tend to tip higher. Usually when we leave, that person who gave us the dirty look smiles and compliments their good behavior.

Why do my children know how to act in a restaurant?  Because they’ve had a lot of practice – at home and in the real world.  Just playing “restaurant” teaches kids the behavior expected of them at a dinner table other than their own.  And when restaurants open their doors to children, they are offering them the opportunity to gain the experience they will need as adult diners.  

  Image via KSBW

Dining in a restaurant with small children is possible, but only as long as families are made to feel welcome.  Chris Shake, the owner of Old Fisherman’s Grotto in Monterey, California, has made it clear that he doesn’t want children in his dining room. Some people are infuriated over this issue.  “Kids have rights, too,” they cry.  Though there are many important laws to protect children, none exist to guarantee them the right to be in any public place other than a classroom. Sadly, there are some people out there who just can’t tolerate kids. Maybe they never got to be kids themselves or forgot what it is like, but for whatever reason, the mere sight, and particularly, sound, of children is agonizing for them.

Fortunately I am not, and presumably you are not, those people.  Still, it’s best to heed their signs when they are posted, lest we deprive ourselves of a good time by patronizing a stuffy establishment.  And if there are no signs?   I learned a long time ago to ignore fellow diners (and even parishoners) who glare at me if one of my children makes a sudden loud noise.  It’s the same squeal the young woman a table over makes when a small black box containing a very shiny ring opens before her.  It’s the same resounding clunk the busboy makes when he drops a plastic tub of silverware.  It’s Grandma’s loud cell phone conversation with her podiatrist in the back booth. It’s that guy at the bar with the room-clearing sneeze…during allergy season.  Kids are loud sometimes, but so are adults.

Noise seems to be the primary complaint of those who dislike children.  It may be as simple as a sensitivity to the high pitches of their little voices or it could simply be how jarring and abrupt their noises can be.  It’s hard to control what comes out of children’s mouths, such as the random happy screaming phase Frank went through just before he turned one.  If we were in a restaurant, Patrick or I would take him outside immediately after the first scream, covering his mouth on the way out the door.  I know I remember it, but I doubt any particular diner was scarred for life by it.  Fortunately none of my boys had colic, but I imagine it must be difficult to go anywhere when the poor baby just can’t stop crying.  Collin’s first two days were like that.  Overwhelmed, I broke down and the nurse told me, “He didn’t ask to be here.” I think of that every time I hear a baby crying uncontrollably.

Thankfully, there are those people who understand when your kids are acting up.  The kind who shoot you a kind, sympathetic smile when your jaw is so tense you’re about to crack a tooth.  Sometimes you can even find them in fancy restaurants and almost always in churches, but probably not at Old Fisherman’s Grotto.  And that’s okay. 

Some people go out to eat to celebrate special occasions, or maybe because it’s Tuesday, and they’re entitled to the right to a peaceful meal.  But there will always be families like mine who run the risk of disturbing this special time, unless we are made aware up front that we are not welcome.  Having a restaurant where rowdy crowds are not allowed is similar to housing developments designed exclusively for college students or senior citizens.  Though a particular group of people is being excluded, it’s in the name of comfort for those being served and not as a means of intentionally harming the excluded group.  If I’m excluded from something, I tend to conclude that I’m not missing out on any people, places, or things I would be interested in.  My family doesn’t plan on visiting Monterey any time soon, but if we do, I know where we won’t be dining.  

 

 

July 31, 2014 03:27
By Robyn Barberry


The only word he knew: Go!


For Frank’s second birthday in May, I gave him a book called Go! Go! Go! Stop!  It was an ironic purchase, made based solely on the title, since Frank refuses to sit still long enough for me to read to him.  (For a parent with an English background, it’s almost painful.) I wrote him a little note inside, praising his curiosity and tenacity.  I also wished for him the power of speech.

The fact that Frank can’t tolerate being read to was one of the concerns addressed by the special educator and speech therapist at Frank’s evaluation by Harford County’s Infants and Toddlers program.  They observed as he buzzed about the room, pollinating one toy and the next.  They struggled to get him to tend to the tabletop tasks required by the testing books before them.  After a laborious session, they diagnosed him with a nine month speech delay and a fourteen month social-emotional delay.


I spent two days speculating over the causes, questioning his life events (being displaced from his home as an infant; gaining a sibling when he was still a baby, himself), blaming myself, consulting trusted friends and relatives, and praying.  I ultimately decided that “Why?” wasn’t as important as, “So what do I do now?” and began to take action.

It will be a month before the special education teacher and speech therapist from the Infants and Toddlers Program will begin visiting our house every week.  In the interim, based on advice I’ve read and received by friends in the field, I plan to do the following:

  • Encourage Frank to use words like, “juice,” “milk,” “more,” and, silly as it might be, “nummies” when he wants something to eat or drink.  Attaching meaning to words will make him more likely to see them as a commodity.

  • Think aloud.  Describe each purchase I make at the store.  Narrate as I cook dinner.  Talk about each toy as I clean up at the end of the day.     

  • Read.  Read even if he’s bouncing from one place to another.  Or, on the contrary, put him in a position where he is “forced” to hear me read.
Such was the case this morning.  As we sat down at our round table to a breakfast of Cheerios, watermelon and blueberries, Leo in his highchair and Frank strapped into his booster, I saw an opportunity to capture Frank’s attention just long enough to squeeze in a story or two.

I started with a board book about the parts of the body, an area in which Frank is deficient.  Leo seemed more interested, raising his eyebrows at babies’ faces expressing a range of emotions.  Frank stared down at Buzz and Woody peering up through the holes of his Cheerios.

Next, we tried Frank was a Monster who Wanted to Dance¸ a silly book about Frankenstein.  It brought Collin over and inspired occasional glances from my own Frank whenever he heard his name.

An animated rendition of Green Eggs and Ham drew bursts of attention whenever I read really loud and really fast, but we lost him with the kitten book.

Finally, we brought out Go! Go! Go! Stop!, which has become one of Collin’s favorites.  We read it at least twice a day in the oversized green chair under the windows, while Frank strews toys and stuffed animals about the room and Leo pokes at them.  At this point in our breakfast book club, Frank was throwing his blueberries on the floor and the “Get me out of here!” meltdown was upon us.  I knew I’d have to rush.  And so I began,

“One day, Little Green said a word.  It was his first word.  He had never spoken before.  The word was…”

Frank stopped everything he was doing and yelled, “Go!”

I began to tear up.  As it turns out, he does listen when I read, just in a different way.  As we turned our way through the story, about a busy construction site in need of a functioning traffic light, Frank stayed with us the whole time, shouting “Go!” at the appropriate moments.  He hasn’t figured out “Stop!” or “Slow down!” yet, but as soon as he does, I think Frank will start to catch up.     


July 25, 2014 02:34
By Robyn Barberry


St. Ignatius Martyr in Austin, Texas



Every year for our anniversary, Patrick and I try to visit someplace different. This year landed us in Austin, Texas, thanks to a recommendation by a longtime friend who is an artist. Plus, Austin is known for great food and music. We’d heard the phrase “Keep Austin Weird,” and proceeded with caution and curiosity.

We didn’t find Austin to be all that weird. People were quite friendly. The food was even better than we’d imagined. And we found ourselves most impressed by the architecture of the houses in the neighborhoods we traversed in our journey from one restaurant to the next. Every house was unique, many were colorful, and great care was taken in adding the little touches that whispered, “home.”

We stayed in a cottage ourselves, and our incredibly helpful innkeeper, Sovay, was glad to oblige when we asked her to help us find a mission-style Catholic church. She led us to St. Ignatius Martyr, a short bus ride away.

I admit I was a little disappointed when I first saw the building. I was hoping to step back in time in a historical, pueblo-style church. This cream bricked church looked to be about the same age as mine, which was built in 1965 (I later discovered that they’re exactly the same age). It did, however, boast the characteristic mission arches I was looking for. At the center of the second story stood an intricate stained glass image of St. Ignatius in reds, yellows, and many shades of blue.



Inside, an alabaster glow exuded from the white marble on the altar. The risen Christ superimposed on the crucifix saw over the space. Two mission-paned glass rooms flanked the altar, with the one on the left housing the musicians and choir. Four sections of oak pews were lit by a gilded chandelier with faux pillar candles, dozens of radiant white and chrome pendant lights, and predominately blue stained glass skylights. The whole place felt warm, and I’m not talking about the Texas heat.

Mass began with the priest asking us to greet each other. I wondered if this was the way “peace” is shared in the Archdiocese of Austin, but we shook hands again after saying the “Our Father.” The music was outstanding, as is to be expected in Austin. I couldn’t even keep track of the instruments, strings and woodwinds so diverse and yet so harmonic. According to Patrick, the cantor sung, “Like a Disney Princess,” which is a huge compliment in our household.

Before giving us our final blessing, the priest asked anyone who had a birthday that week to stand for a blessing. Mine was the Monday before, but I didn’t think it counted. Then, he asked who was having an anniversary. Ours was the next day, so we stood and were blessed. Lastly, he asked the visitors to stand and blessed us as the ushers handed out information cards and pocket-sized wooden crosses. I’m going to use mine as a Christmas ornament to honor our visit to this special place.



After Mass, I perused the small store set up in the vestibule, where they sold religious jewelry, music, DVDs, crucifixes, and cards of saints I’d never even heard of. People I’d never seen before stopped over to wish me a happy anniversary and welcome me to their parish. I found some things I liked in the store, then realized I only brought enough cash for the collection. Still, it was fun to window shop for Catholic gifts.  

I consider my parish to be very welcoming, comfortable place for visitors, and I was elated to feel the same way at St. Ignatius Martyr. The whole experience was a reminder to me that the building itself is a very small part of what makes up a church. 

July 07, 2014 02:55
By Robyn Barberry


Lessons from a juggler


“I’m not coming to the circus,” I tell Patrick over the phone, referring to the Kelly Miller Circus being held on our farm that night.

It had been the worst day I’d had in a long time, and I certainly didn’t need to add more drama to my life. Frank had to be evaluated for his speech delay first thing in the morning. Then there were swim lessons and a host of other tasks to be completed in Bel Air, where my parents live. Even though they weren’t home, we decided to use their house as a layover space between appointments.

As I was putting Collin’s wet bathing suit into the washer, Frank threw a Yankee Candle into the toilet. Collin simultaneously spilled a box of tiny pasta all over the floor. Somehow a chocolate granola bar melted to the back of Leo’s neck while he was in his car seat. The boys were covered in food, diapers needed to be changed, and we were already running late for Frank’s hearing test.

Of course, Collin tried to talk the audiologist’s ear off while she was evaluating Frank. Then Leo started crying. And Frank, being Frank, refused to sit still. Even the audiologist looked like she was about to scream.

That’s when I told Patrick I wasn’t going to the circus. We went home, instead of going back to my parents’ house. After some bubbles and ball play in the yard, we had reset. We were ready to stop by Collin’s camp orientation and head to the circus, after all.

From the second we entered the tent, Frank wailed. (He doesn’t like the dark.) So, I held him outside the tent doors and we watched from there. It was peaceful, a cool early summer evening, the smell of cotton candy and popcorn filling the air. I tried several times to bring him into the tent. He almost always cried, until the last time when an Ethiopian man bounced into the ring, dropping rubber balls into a sideways drum, dribbling six without dropping one. He put on a few more dizzying juggling displays, and was on a roll until he dropped one. His face and his posture dropped.

An assistant brought out a 10 foot ladder and held on to the balls – seven of them. As the man tried to steady the ladder, it wobbled. But, seeming rushed, he moved to the next step and tried harder to balance than he had before. The outcome was even worse. By the time he got to the top, the ladder was as jittery and unstable as a Model T missing a tire. The assistant tossed him the balls. As soon as he bounced the first one, the rest of the balls went flying, with the ladder and juggler crashing down behind them.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/Garry Knight

The juggler looked as though he was melting under the lights, crumbling under the ash in front of a thousand sets of eyes, but he shrugged and forced a smile.

“Would you like to see him try again?” the announcer asked.

The crowd roared and the juggler consented. This time, he waited until the ladder was steady before moving to the next step. He double checked his footing before asking the assistant for the balls. He kept his focus on each of the seven balls as he juggled them from the ground to his rapidly moving hands, 10 feet above. He didn’t have to think about his balance because it was already there. When the act was finished, he descended gracefully and bowed gratefully.

I cheered louder than anyone, for he had taught me a valuable lesson. I can juggle anything, but only if I have a sturdy foundation and a sense of balance. My day was a lot like his:

·                    Just like the juggler starting up the ladder after a disappointing failure, I started out the day negatively, imagining how stressed out I would be rather than picturing myself accomplishing each task.

·                    That day, I was hastily climbing the ladder, checking off my to-do list, dragging the boys with me like how the juggler skipped to the next wrung before mastering the first.

·                    Like the juggler, I tried to force a weak foundation to work at the peak of my stress.

·                    “I’m not coming to the circus,” was me crashing.

·                    I nearly gave up when we returned home, but I took the opportunity to “reset,” just as the juggler did before he began his second climb.

·                    When I decided to go to the circus after all, I changed my attitude, which enabled me to handle Frank’s distress and appreciate the circus, particularly the juggler. I needed no applause, but he deserved his.

June 16, 2014 04:18
By Robyn Barberry


Communication breakdown



On the morning of Frank’s second birthday, Collin was more excited than the boy of the hour about the events of the day.

As I was getting the boys into their Orioles party gear, Collin chattered away: “And we’re going to have cupcakes … and all my friends and cousins are coming over … and they’re bringing presents! And now Frank will talk the right way because he’s two!”

I thought back to Collin’s second birthday and remembered him speaking in complete sentences. I thought about how clearly my cousin in Boston’s little girl speaks, and she turned two a few weeks earlier. Frank, “a man of few words,” according to my aunt, has a vocabulary of about a dozen words and gross motor skills more sophisticated than Collin’s. I revealed this information to my cousin in New York, an elementary school teacher, in a recent phone conversation, and she grew quiet.

I didn’t think anything was wrong because Collin’s verbal skills were always off the charts. I just assumed (there’s that word) that Frank was at a normal level. The second and third times around I haven’t been as vigilant about reading up on milestones, and now I wish I had.

Image via Flickr, Oleg Dulin

When I took Frank for his two year check-up, my pediatrician had me fill out a questionnaire including questions like “can string two words together,” “follows multiple step directions,” and “behaves aggressively when unable to communicate” (Frank bites and head butts when frustrated).  Frank scored a 20 percent. The doctor diagnosed him with a speech delay and recommended we contact an organization called “Infants and Toddlers” through the local school district.

Like most mothers I know, I began Googling “speech delay” to learn more about it. I searched for milestones and found this. At 24 months, Frank should know about 50 words. His vocabulary consists of the names of his immediate family and grandparents, “no,” “ball,” “shoe,” “apple,” “bubble,” “more,” and “me.” He also knows most of his ABCs and can count to 15.

Of course, when I continued my search, what I found was extreme. I began panicking about autism, something Frank shows some other signs of. Would I be able to handle raising a child with a severe disability?

I began to question what I’ve done wrong? Do I give Frank less attention because he’s my middle child? Do I work too much? Do I not read to him enough? Is it what I feed him or his sleeping patterns or the toothpaste we use?

I consulted another cousin, a speech therapist in Seattle, who’d recently visited. She reassured me that Frank would receive the care he needs and that it’s common for boys, especially the second son, especially when the oldest brother talks incessantly.

She also said he seemed quite social during her recent visit, so autism shouldn’t be my first concern. I made appointments for Frank’s hearing test and evaluation and called two of my friends whose sons received speech therapy through Infants and Toddlers. They informed me that the program helped their boys make great strides, one over the course of two years for a congenital defect and the other over a much longer time for autism. The therapists come to the house or in the case of more intense treatment, a bus comes to the house to take the child to a school setting.

When I started putting speech therapy in the context of tutoring, rather than radical medical treatment, I started to feel better. I want my child to have the gift of communication and will build a nest of support through research, friends and family (including my many wise and talented cousins), and speech therapy programs. I will also pray, particularly requesting the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, for me and for him.
 

June 05, 2014 03:43
By Robyn Barberry


A picture's worth


As we were straggling out of Collin’s end-of-preschool picnic at Annie’s Playground, Ms. Andrews, his teacher, called after him, “Collin!  Wait!  I have to give you a hug!”

She came dashing over to us in her turquoise trapeze tank, her asymmetrical dark hair swaying, big sunglasses in place, trusty spray bottle in hand.  (She uses it to “surprise” her students with a cooling mist on warm days.)  Collin, a contrast with pale blonde hair and a faded light blue t-shirt, ran down to meet her at the base of the hill.  She crouched to the ground on one knee, set the spray bottle down and said, “Look what I found!” 

It was a puffy white dandelion, ripe for wish making.  She picked it.  Collin folded himself under her arm and right up next to her.  Together they blew, seeds speckling the landscape scene behind them of a nearly clean pavilion to the left and to the right a maze of firetrucks and fortresses to be climbed.

Photo via Flickr/Creative Commons via r. nial bradshaw

Everything about the scene before me was beautiful.  I thought about snapping a photo with my phone, but I was frozen.  So I had to use my mind.  Click.  A teacher and a student saying goodbye over a dandelion.  Click.  Fill in the details.  Now that I have a mental picture, what is it about?  Now:  That moment when the past and future meet.  Change.  Good change.

“Now there are a million new dandelions out there,” Ms. Andrews said with a smile as she put down the stem and picked up her squirt bottle.  “Make sure you bring tissues to graduation,” she told me.  “The slide show pictures will have you boo-hoo-ing.”

I was about to cry right then, especially because I didn’t take a picture of this special little moment in my son’s ever-growing life.  As she walked away, I wanted to call her back and have her reenact the dandelion scene one more time after I deleted some pictures from my phone.  I decided it wasn’t worth it.  The sentiment behind the image would be lost.  I will pay closer attention the next time a scene unfolds before me.  This time I’ll have a camera ready.

Why does these little moments matter?  Because in life we are witnesses to God’s presence.  He reveals Himself to us when we stop what we’re doing and focus on the beauty before us.  Those glimpses of heaven are all around us.  It’s why photographers and artists labor over every detail so that we can see the world with their eyes.  It’s why we carry cameras around with us everywhere.  You never know when you’ll catch a glimpse of God.  We just have to remember to use them.      

When I picked Collin up from school the next day, I noticed a collage of students’ pictures on a poster by the door.  They were all blowing dandelions.  And in his book bag?  An entire flash drive full of pictures from every day of the school year.  Thank you, Ms. Andrews!

May 22, 2014 02:08
By Robyn Barberry


The doughnut seed dilemma


At the end of gardening week at Collin’s preschool, his teacher, spunky and creative, gave each child a blue packet labeled “doughnut seeds.”  On the outside was a picture of powdered mini donuts.  Inside were frosted Cheerios.

The whimsical side of myself was amused at the cleverness behind the trick. We were to plant the Cheerios, excuse me, “doughnut seeds," in our garden. Then, when Collin wasn’t looking, we were to lay doughnuts on the soil for all to enjoy. The fun in it made me think back to the magic I believed in as a child and the memories it created for me.



An older cousin told me that my stuffed animals could talk, but only while I was asleep.  I’d shut my eyes each night and breathe heavily, trying to hear the conversations between my favorite scraggly stuffed terrier, Arkie and a nameless purple and white cat who morphed into a rabbit when I pulled the attached long-eared hood over his head.  They never made a peep, but I still believed. 

That sense of wonder is a secret of happiness.  It’s why even the most curmudgeonly adults can buy in to the Christmas spirit. It’s up to the adults to keep magic alive with stories and games and, yes, even doughnut seeds …or is it?

The health fanatic in myself thought that doughnut seeds were a bad idea. As a farmer’s wife and vegan, teaching my children that the foods that are good for them come from the earth is one of my greatest responsibilities. What would I be teaching them if they believed sugary pastries came out of the ground from seeds planted and nourished by the earth and the elements?  Would he think God invented donuts?

I’m no angel when it comes to steering my children away from sweets. There was a time period when we engaged in daily Dunkin' Donuts trips – just because. Now in our world of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, donuts exist as a rare treat. There are the coconut cream donuts Collin and Frank enjoy on the first Sunday of the month after Mass. Once or twice a month on a particularly good day, we may on a whim take a trip through the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru. Though I avoid using food as an incentive, every once in a while a cooperative grocery store experience will end with a reward covered in pink frosting and sprinkles. But will there be fresh picked donuts at our breakfast table?

Patrick and Collin planted the seeds in our front flower bed.  Collin was so excited, he ran around the house, listing all the ways he learned in school to take care of his plant-in-progress.  “The seeds are going to sprout!  Then we’ll see shoots! Then…”  I didn’t want to ruin the moment. I didn’t want to break his heart and force him to develop a distaste for horticulture in general. (Not a good idea in a farm family!) Patrick told me he was going to buy doughnuts to put out there. I told him to wait. I hadn’t decided whether doughnuts could come from seeds.

So, I said nothing about the seeds in the hopes that he’d figure out for himself that donuts come from bakeries, not gardens. If he asks, I’ll tell him. But, I don’t want to crush his imagination just yet. So, instead I redirected him to two My First Gardening Sets from Crayola (I purchased ours at Wegman’s for $3.99.  I haven’t found them anywhere else). We planted the sunflower and daisy seeds and placed them on the kitchen windowsill beside the grass and beans he started growing at school. 

Every day, Collin checks his plants and squeals over their progress. He checks on his doughnut seeds periodically, but is bored by their lack of progress. He only remembers them on rainy days, still hanging on to the last nibble of his dream. I know that it wouldn’t take long for Collin to realize that junk food doesn’t grow on trees, but I’d rather not delay such an important lesson. Soon, we will grow a vegetable garden right alongside the doughnut seeds.  Collin will be amazed as he watches his dinner emerge from the earth. This time, fantasy and reality will coincide – in nature.  

 

 

May 16, 2014 12:45
By Robyn Barberry


Soccer Mom


I registered my oldest son for soccer clinic this morning, joining the ranks of soccer moms all over the world.  But what does it mean to be a soccer mom?  And why does it matter? 

When I signed that registration form, I entered into a long-term contract, not so unlike a marriage. I’ve made a tremendous commitment to provide physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, financial and vehicular support for the athletic realm of my children’s lives. I’ll be bandaging boo-boos, explaining the rules, jumping and shouting from the sidelines, arranging play dates with teammates, praying for everyone’s safety, feverishly writing checks, and – to fulfill the stereotype – shuttling my boys to games and practices all over the region. It’s so much for one person to handle on top of a day job (or two) and the additional requirements of parenthood. What will it take to accomplish such a daunting feat? 


Sacrifice. Obviously it will take money – registration fees, equipment, and a tank or two of fuel. I might have to put a hiatus on impulse clothing purchases and trips to the nail salon, but I knew when I first became a mom that it wasn’t about me anymore.  We’ll have to turn down birthday party invitations in our quest for perfect attendance, like Cal. I might lose my voice. I might get drenched. A broken bone might jut its way into our plans. After all, we’re giving up the comfort of the status quo in the name of the game.  In the name of opportunity. We will lose many things, but never our faith.

Though I have yet to realize the price of my Saturday mornings this fall, I do know there’s much to gain in the life of a soccer mom. While my boys are making friends on the field, I’ll be making friends on the bleachers. I may even take up a hobby, like knitting, to keep my hands busy when I’m not waving or clapping. A dear family friend and former soccer mom informed me I’m in for a hefty dose of fresh air. That victory smile running towards me that ends in a sweaty post-game high-five – or hug. White soccer ball stickers with numbers on them that creep their way onto my car’s rear window. 

I’m most looking forward to the learning experiences recreational soccer will offer the boys and me. I have no background in organized sports and, to be honest, have never been a soccer fan, but, I won’t let my preferences get in the way of a valuable experience for my sons. I will learn the game and, who knows, maybe coach someday. I believe in the power of sports and what they can do to keep one’s body healthy and spirit happy. But there are also the social aspects of sportsmanship which reveal the importance of rules, how to cooperate, and recovery from loss. It took me nearly three decades to learn the internal value of physical activity. Playing sports at an early age would have made many things in life easier for me. I just wasn’t interested.  Now, I am.

Call it living vicariously, but I want my children to discover the benefits of exercise and sports while they’re very young. A life of overall health begins now. Soccer is a great place to start. It’s simple. It’s global. It’s love.   

 

 

May 12, 2014 04:29
By Robyn Barberry


Weekly Wonder Tool: Skidders


Frank hates shoes. Period.  He buzzes about the house wearing one blue and grey sneaker while the other foot is bare.  As soon as he’s settled into his car seat, I hear the “thud, thud” of his brown, Velcro oxfords.  Of course, his shoes often go missing, which is why one day, during a typical rush out the door, I threw a pair of Skidders on him.  A wise decision, as it turns out.

Collin received the pair of slipper-type shoes for his second birthday.  He only wore them a few times, mainly because it was summer, and thus sandal and bare feet season and I thought the shoes were like woolen slippers.  Nope.  These all-season, indoor/outdoor shoes are composed of sturdy, yet stretchy nylon uppers and textured rubber soles and toe caps.

One thing I quickly learned about Skidders is that they are Frank-proof.  He can take them off, but it’s much harder than kicking off his regular shoes.  His wide foot is accommodated by the stretch of the sock.  They also breathe surprisingly well, so no more wet, stinky socks (from Frank, for now, anyway).  And they don’t slow him down, like I thought they would (maybe I should keep looking!).


Skidders have held up after a tromp through our wet back yard, and when they’re too muddy, they simply catch a ride in the washer (I sit them out to dry to protect the integrity of the sock portion of the shoe).  Frank’s pair are black with a skull and crossbones print, but there are about a hundred other colors available, including plain black for church and even Ravens and Orioles designs.  There are other varieties of shoes and socks available, including a collection for women.

Skidders retail for about $20 and can be found at Target or at the Skidders website.

      

May 01, 2014 06:16
By Robyn Barberry


Mother Earth


Everyone knows that an education begins at home.  So, we teach our children ABCs and 123s as early and as often as possible.  We Catholics begin sharing our faith from the time our babies are baptized.  An additional part of our moral belief system we should teach our children is what it means to be environmentally responsible citizens.

I recently spoke with an environmental educator who gave me a few pointers on teaching my boys how to take care of the Earth.  She said to start by comparing our planet to their playground.  Ask them to consider how they’d feel if someone dumped a whole bunch of stuff on it, polluting their environment. It would make it hard to play, just as our destructive environmental habits could make it difficult to live on Earth.

For older kids, she recommends focusing on protecting animal habitats.  Or, make it a game: competitions in recycling and other eco-friendly activities will add excitement to a good cause.  This generation, according to the educator, won’t even have to think about recycling, going paperless, and eco-friendly modes of transportation. Living green will just be part of their daily routine.  But we have to get them there.

Collin is even learning about the environment in school.  Last week, his class made a gigantic robot out of recycled materials.  We made a laptop at home with bottle caps, a pizza box, a few odds-and-ends and The Baltimore Sun.  The process helped Collin to learn about the role paper and plastics play in the recycling process.  It was also a fun opportunity for us to work on a family project.


We were also fortunate enough to participate in Aberdeen’s Earth Day Festival on Saturday where there was music, food, vendors and nearly a dozen games to play, all made from recycled materials.  Laundry detergent caps tumbled out of a bucket and onto a playing surface where the furthest one ahead took first prize.  Cane chairs without seats were painted colorfully and arranged so that multicolor-speckled recycled Frisbees could make their way through the holes.  And in Collin’s favorite game, “cars” made of hard hats and old lawnmower tires raced down a ramp, across a track, and (if you’re lucky!) into a weighted soda bottle.  Collin was so close!  But we had fun, learned, and enjoyed the nature walk we took to the park.    

Earth Day may be over, but the sentiments celebrated by the occasion needn’t be forgotten.  According to my educator friend, “Nothing is going to change unless people do something about it.”  We are those people and so are our children.

April 30, 2014 11:14
By Robyn Barberry

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