A Break in the Monotony

You’d think with a 4-year-old in my care the word monotony wouldn’t cross my lips. However, the reality is while we’re active and adaptable most days, Gemma and I still have a pretty consistent routine – eat, school, eat, play, eat, sleep. It’s been just over four years since I became a stay-at-home mom, and I’m still coming to terms with what that means.

I get asked “What are you up to?” a lot. And many times it’s a subtle implication about not working outside the home…”Are you really still doing the stay-at-home mom thing“? (like it’s taboo). In response, I usually get fidgety, break eye-contact and offer some long-winded response that only half makes me feel relevant (and mostly never exudes confidence). I want to scream “This is doesn’t define me. I didn’t plan to still be at home four years later. I am still relevant. A little person relies on me…loves me…can’t live without me…and that means something, dammit!” But that seems a little desperate, right?! In reality, I didn’t plan it. And it’s still not a natural “career” for me but I have to remember you don’t start a job at the top of your game…it takes time, training, guidance, mentors, confidence, mistakes, apologies, ownership, more training, more mentoring, etc. And so it goes…parenthood.

The work of being a stay-at-home mom is primarily teaching and involves a high level of craftiness, planning and undivided attention (even when you’re not in the mood—no sick days or “I’ve got a headache” excuses will do when a little ball of energy wants you to play UNO or dress-up). Oh, and btw, the cooking, cleaning and transportation duties are just the icing (so they say). Sometimes I miss working outside the home, the selfish part of being able to have something “just for me” but then I have days like yesterday…

  • Woke up and got G ready for school.
  • Had a rare and special family breakfast at Dunkin Donuts (since daddy is going out of town for the week).
  • Delivered G safely to school then dropped packages at the shipping store, got in a 2-mile walk and a P90X workout, grabbed a shower, posted a blog, and prepped dinner.
  • Picked G up from school and hit the grocery store…G got to put all items in and mostly push the cart herself AND hand all items to cashier AND “pay”…which by the way turns a 15 minute grocery trip into an hour-long learning activity).
  • Got home, put away groceries and finished putting crock-pot chicken noodle soup together.
  • Made chocolate chip cookies with G (baked 1/2 of dough, rolled and froze 1/2 of dough).
  • Played 5 hands of Slap Jack then snuggled with G in home theater for 1 hour “quiet time” watching the Dreamworks holiday shorts episodes featuring Shrek, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon (super cute, btw).
  • Ate chicken noodle soup dinner; G crowned me Chopped Champion for soup…again! Golly, do I love this girl and her accolades!
  • Drove “in the dark” to UPS to pick up a package. (This, by the way, is also exciting for a 4-year-old who is usually not in a car after dinner/dark…she noticed the moon and Venus in the sky, so we chatted about the universe, planets and why the moon is not a planet even though it looks like one. Note: We need to get out more in the dark.)
  • Got back home and had a kid-friendly “nightcap” (hot cocoa).
  • G helped me put on a clarifying face mask (and take it off…which elicited a lot of giggles from both of us!)
  • Snuggled in jammies and read 3 books before bedtime.
  • Got a few quiet moments by myself to clean up kitchen/dishes and brush/floss before having a great chat with my brother and sis-in-law (planning Thanksgiving dinner so my mom doesn’t have to cook!).

I don’t realize until I write down my day’s activities how much of G’s life I would miss out on if I had a full-time job outside the home. Who would be there to answer her silly questions? Or her serious questions? Who would tell me she now has an imaginary dog (in addition to her imaginary friend)?

But truth be told…I have a mild jealous streak, and I often envy Ben’s ability to break away from our “monotony”…

  • to converse with other adults about “business things”,
  • have quiet moments in the car listening to “his” music,
  • watch a movie or “catch up on email” on an airplane,
  • have a cocktail or eat “peacefully” at a fancy restaurant on a business trip,
  • talk on the phone without being interrupted,
  • select and eat his lunch at will,
  • to pee (for God’s sake) without a tiny human sticking her fingers/artwork/candy under the door to get your attention (assuming the door is even closed!) or yelling through the door “do you need me to turn the fan on for you, mommy?”.

While I envy his luxuries, I’m learning to better accept my position and its “on-the-job training”. My latest revelation is 4-year-old’s are bipolar…one minute I’m gritting my teeth because G’s refusing to finish breakfast and get dressed for school, and the next minute my heart is melting because she’s sweetly requesting a hug and a kiss, with arms outstretched and puppy-dog eyes, because (doh!) we haven’t hugged and kissed since we woke up (a mere 40 minutes ago).

This is a special time for both Gemma and I. It is challenging and rewarding in so many ways. I must remind myself more often because someday I’ll work for someone else again but for now I’m pretty happy working for Gemma.

On a side note…while searching the archives, I came across this photo…

shaving cream mask

You see, I was at wit’s end. We were visiting my parents in Illinois, and Gemma had been pushing everyone’s buttons the whole day. Come bath time, she was spitting fire, and I’m fairly certain scales were forming on her arms and legs. So instead of fighting it (more), I decided to just be silly. I snuck off, grabbed a can of shaving cream and slathered it on before creeping through the house to give my l’il dragon a scare. Before I knew it we were all laughing, and l’il G returned to her kind-hearted self.

As I look ahead to this week while Ben’s out of town, I may need some ideas from you (yes, you!) on how to inject some more levity like this into our daily routine! Suggestions are greatly welcomed in the comments section below. What out-of-the-ordinary things do you do to maintain humor in yourself and with your kids/family??!!

Halloween Wrap-Up

Better late than never, right?! Today I’m sharing my favorite shots from last week’s Halloween festivities!

First up are the fantastic food creations we snacked on at our neighbor’s annual Halloween bash. Seriously, some of these things were very hard to eat if you thought too much about their festive names.

The big winner of the food contest was….the meat head and cheese platter (below)!

meat head and cheese platter

And here are some more amazing additions to the buffet…

cheese queso in a pumpkincheese queso in a carved pumpkin

guac in a spider bread bowlguacamole in a spider bread bowl

cockroach dipcockroach hummus dip and pita chips

witches hatswitches hats

jello wormsjello worms

pumpkin puffspumpkin puffs

graveyard dirt cakegraveyard dirt cake

vampire fangs and blood dipmonster fangs and congealed blood

krispy screamskrispy screams

alien oreo eyeballsalien oreo eyeballs

zombie fingers and blood dipzombie fingers and blood dip

Ben’s office also hosted a fall festival for employees and families, including (cubicle) trick-or-treating, cookie decorating and fun games…

cubicle trick or treat  gemma and daddy trick or treat

minions cookie decorating  cowboy and gemma cookie decorating

And, since we had a few minutes to kill before the party, Gemma and I had a mini Halloween photo shoot on the American Tobacco Campus…love this place!

gemma witch jumping  gemma bull bike rack crawl

gemma witch stairs  gemma witch peeking powerhouse

And finally…Halloween night! Several families on our street all pooled together for pizza and a face painter for the big night. It was such a fun night!

face paint group   face paint gemma   face paint jack face paint addison   face paint maya   face paint kate face paint matthew   face paint molly   face paint kiran face paint hunter   face paint tyler

Tutorial: Dress-Up Closet (IKEA Hack)

As I mentioned in my last post, Gemma has a well-stocked dress-up collection. On any given day she can transform from a precocious baby girl into a fireman, cowgirl, pirate, princess, doctor, chef, Red Riding Hood, ballerina, mailman, fairy or train conductor.

All of these character changes require some serious playroom organization. Initially, we let these costumes live in a basket when not in use, however the stash outgrew the basket, and I knew we needed a space to keep things clean. The key was creating an area where all or most of the storage was at Gemma’s level, so cleaning up her playroom could be a realistic chore. Hence, I made my thrice yearly trek to IKEA (Charlotte is our closest store, a little over 2 hours away). I had an idea in mind but wasn’t quite sure if it would work.

It took a few hours of wandering the store to soak up all my options but I finally settled on a few pieces of the TROFAST bin storage solution from the children’s department. This system is great because there are several frames from which to choose (finishes, sizes) and the bins are interchangeable and can be configured in a variety of ways.

Here are some pics of the end result.

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Now I’ll walk you through how we organized the space.

Dress Up “Closet”

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This was the first TROFAST frame I purchased ($50). Instead of filling it with bins, I opted to make it a pseudo-hanging closet for the less bulky dress up clothing. First, I painted it (using some leftover paint from a previous project; not Annie Sloan, btw), then I simply installed the smallest tension rod I could find ($3). On the left side of the closet you can see a three-pocket organizer, the PYSSLINGAR wall pocket ($5), which stores beads, necklaces and other dress-up accessories.

tension rod

IKEA also sells these cute, colorful hangers ($1.49/8 pack).

ikeahangers

Princess Corner: I painted a simple peg coat rack (like this one, $9) with a thin coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (Old White) and hung it to store the bulky princess dresses and fairy wings. The dress-up mirror is from IKEA (though it appears they no longer sell this version), and I made the tuffet at a “Tuffet in a Day” class a few years ago at a local fabric store (Thimble Pleasures, Chapel Hill).

ikeadressup5

coatrack

White Dress Up and Toy Bins: This is the second TROFAST storage solution I purchased ($90/frame plus cost of desired bins, $3-5/each). I gave the pine frame a whitewash using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, Old White and then organized Gemma’s dress up accessories and other toys inside each bin. The bins easily store her small musical instruments, Legos, Play-doh, smaller dolls and cars, purses and other bags, etc. On the top of the unit, there is a set of three white/tassel PYSSLINGAR small fabric storage bins ($8/set of three) to catch CDs, feather boas and other small toys.

ikeadressup1

Ideally, we’d have built-in storage (something I’ve put on my wish list should we ever build a house) but for the mean time, this solution works great for us.  It’s easily accessible for Gemma, we can rearrange the pieces as her play interests change, and it can grow with us (thankfully IKEA offers several pieces in this line). I hope you enjoyed this tour of the little dress-up nook in Gemma’s play space and are inspired to create an affordable space for your own kiddos!

Special Note:

  • IKEA Hackers is fabulous site to find creative ways to repurpose IKEA products. I can get lost for hours just looking at the hundreds of ways people have transformed simple products into amazing solutions. It’s a must see!!

Fostering Girl Power

I was 15 years old in 1992 when Teen Talk Barbie made headlines for saying “math class is tough”. What a blow that was to the feminist movement.

Back then I aspired to be an astronaut. Seriously. No one ever told me I couldn’t pursue my dream, so why not? In fact, my parents encouraged my interest and allowed me to attend Space Academy not once, but twice…once in 8th grade and again during spring break my senior year in high school. Those two weeks will forever rank high on my list of great childhood memories.

woundedduckteam

Team Wounded Duck, Space Academy, April 1995

spaceacademygrounds

Space Academy grounds, Huntsville, AL, 1995

jilljoetannerlaunchpad2006

Incredible “behind the scenes” tour of Kennedy Space Center, Launch Pad B, with astronaut Joe Tanner (Danville, IL native), 1996

Ultimately, when I got to college I realized while I had enjoyed making rockets with my team of fellow “nerds”, scuba diving in the underwater astronaut trainer tank, and managing my post as a mission control or payload specialist, what I really enjoyed was the stimulation, interaction and “play” of it all. Translation…I wasn’t willing to do the work, put in the years or make the sacrifices necessary to achieve the dream. So I became a communications major (insert chuckle here).

My choice to abandon my dream had nothing to do with Teen Talk Barbie. At the time, the American Association of University Women took issue with the careless words of this tween toy and demanded Mattel remove them from Barbie’s vocab (which Mattel did). The AAUW cited a report which concluded girls were being short-changed in schools. Maybe those words discouraged some girls from pursuing fields of science or math? Probably not. [I attribute my detour to merely growing up and being aware of my strengths and power of choice. Oh, and I’ll give Lynn Moody credit, too. She was a top-notch communications prof during my freshman year in college (shout out to Danville Area Community College), who inspired and motivated me to study the psychology of how and why people interact and socialize, and ultimately find my degree in public relations.]

Fast forward 20 years (wow, really?) and gender lines are still drawn. Becoming a parent puts this fact in clear view – beginning with the tiny hat bestowed on baby’s head in the hospital and ending at the current 19% earnings gap between women and men. While I have the ability to filter and the confidence to strive beyond stereotypes, my impressionable 4-year-old daughter, Gemma, is a sponge.

I see the gender lines drawn down every toy, athletic and clothing aisle in department stores. G is a princess through and through. And I must admit I fell into the trap early on…pink, pink, pink (well her room is blue but only because I saw a lot of pink in her future). We’ve got a playroom full of sparkles and crowns; princess dresses for each day of the week; “my first purse”; a play kitchen; Strawberry Shortcakes, Disney princesses and My Little Ponies galore. We’re pretty balanced, though, with matchbox cars, a train set, balls, Legos (albeit the Friends line which boasts a horse stable and pink convertible for little girl Lego-people), fireman and train engineer dress up clothes, Play-doh, and building blocks. And thank goodness the female characters in Gemma’s books offer strong role models and teach sharing, manners, healthy lifestyle and friendly behaviors. I’m not sure I remember a moral message from my favorite cartoon of yesteryear, Jem (and the Holograms).

As her parents, Ben and I embrace her glittery personality and realize it’s our job to encourage her to reach beyond the “pink” and instill a solid foundation in reading, math and science.

Almost daily, I encourage Gemma’s help in the kitchen, which may seem gender-biased, I know, but it’s clear she’s learning so much more than just “mommy cooks dinner”. She’s learning how to measure, seeing how ingredients react to heat (in the oven and on the stove) or air (with mixing or whipping), learning to count and tell time, expanding her palate to ensure a healthy lifestyle and lay a foundation for the desire to (hopefully) travel the world and experience places and people beyond my own imagination.

gemmashuckingcorn

Gemma (1.5 years old) shucking corn.

We treat her as an equal member of the household (within boundaries, of course); a tiny human with valid opinions and the same rights and responsibilities as her father and I…we require manners, respect, contributions of chores, etc.

As a family, we play card games such as UNO or BLINK to reinforce shapes, colors, numbers and critical thinking. She’s quite good…I’d estimate a .650 winning percentage. Dominos is another favorite. Ben and Gemma’s favorite activities are building with blocks and creating incredible train track designs. That said, we work on a lot of puzzles, memory games and recently picked up Magnetic SuperMind, which really challenges the player to use their spacial judgement to organize various shapes to create the pictures provided on the game cards. (Thankfully, these game sets are primary colors and not gender-specific.) I’m fascinated watching Gemma work with the shapes, seeing her determination and satisfaction when she’s able to complete a card on her own.

magneticmastermindset

gemmamastermind1

gemmamastermind2

The only thing clear in our quest to raise a smart, confident and strong young woman is we’re winging it. Going on gut instinct. Taking lessons from our mothers and fathers and those influential members of our little community of friends and family, implementing what has shaped and inspired us. Teaching her good morals and giving her the tools to succeed. Letting her fall once in a while because it will keep her grounded and might just motivate her to reach higher or try something new. Encouraging her to dream, and, ahem, letting her know it’s okay to change your dreams along the way.

Oh, and I don’t think there’s any harm in agreeing with her if she comes home from school and tells me “math class is tough”.

Rainy Day Photojournal

The rain this week has me completely uninspired. At least that’s my excuse for taking the lazy way out with today’s post. Here are some pics from our Sunday fun-day at the museum and a sweet birthday party for our neighbor, Ella.

What’s more fun than a double-date? A family double-date! Loved our afternoon with the Bishop fam at the Pumpkin Patch at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The girls had a great time riding the train, decorating pumpkins and playing around the museum’s dinosaur trail. As predicted, the dads enjoyed the pumpkin sling shot!

pumpkintrain

fampumpkinpatch

baileyphotogemma

pumpkinslingshot

pumpkindecorating

decoratedpumpkin

ourpicpumpkinpatch

bishoppicpumpkinpatch

braceletexchange

piggyback

gemmaslidedinosaur

dinosaurdig

Later in the afternoon, we helped celebrate Ella’s 2nd birthday. Her parents, our dear friends and next door neighbors, hosted the sweetest party complete with a ladybug release (3,000 of them!) and the best face painter (who was so good, we’ve booked her to adorn our kids’ faces for Halloween night). The kids had a blast releasing (and catching) the ladybugs…and letting them crawl all over their arms and legs. The parents got quite a kick out of the whole spectacle!

ellaparty

ladybugrelease

ladybugandeyelashes

ladybugscrawlingonarm

facepainter

facepaint1

facepaint3

facepaint2

facepaintermollygemma

Nacho Mama Challenge

Since Gemma could stand on a step-stool, she has been my handy, little sous chef. She loves helping me (and her grandmothers) in the kitchen, and I’m fortunate this experience has made her a great eater. For the most part, she’ll try anything, especially if she’s had a hand in selecting or preparing it. Here’s one of my favorite videos of Gemma (a month after her 2nd birthday) making herself a Nutella sandwich…

We were so inspired by the Durham Farmer’s Market Chef Challenge, we decided to have a challenge of our own. You see, our favorite family show is Chopped. We love learning about new foods and how to prepare them and critiquing the styles and creativity of the chefs…and of course, trying to guess which chef will be crowned chopped champion. On any given night, if Gemma likes what we’re eating for dinner, I’m declared chopped champion…it’s her sweet gesture which inspires me to create more home-cooked meals for our family.

After watching Chef Katie compete on Saturday, Gemma and I discussed what type of meal we could both make our own. It had to be something she could manage without using a knife or the stove/oven on her own (she is only 4), and we were craving Mexican food. Hence, the Nacho Mama Challenge was born! Daddy was immediately declared the sole judge (good luck with that, Ben!).

With the major details decided, we set off to shop the farmer’s market for ingredients. We left with tomatoes, red peppers, a jalapeno and an onion and headed to the grocery store for a few more items before settling in the kitchen to prep for our big night. We already planned to use our leftover short rib meat and fresh cilantro at home, so we grabbed some avocado, mascarpone and black olives at the grocery. We also each selected our own bag of nacho chips to use in our individual dishes.

I did most of the prep work…slicing, dicing and mincing veggies while Gemma helped “manage the personality of the kitchen” with stories and instructions on how to do what I was already doing. Four-year-olds are quite funny, very talkative and love telling others what to do…not sure where she gets those qualities?!

nachomamatoppings

The grocery didn’t have queso blanco so the cheese specialist recommended mascarpone as a substitute which turned out to be a wonderful base to unleash my creativity. I concocted two dressings, a spicy Jalapeno and Sriracha Mascarpone dressing and a mild Avocado and Cilantro Mascarpone dressing, which I warmed slightly before drizzling over my nacho creation.

nachomamachefs

It was quite a fun event…Gemma and I each with our pie plates, stacking chips and meat and veggies and cheese. We were very competitive, of course. I being told “Stop looking at my nachos!” by Gemma, and I telling Gemma “Why don’t you use toppings besides lettuce and cilantro?“. Gemma created a short-rib, lettuce and cilantro salad with tomato and avocado garnish on traditional restaurant-style tortilla chips. I threw together my “everything but the kitchen sink” blue corn nachos with several dollops of both homemade mascarpone dressings and garnished with sliced jalapeno and diced tomato. We proudly placed our nacho dishes under the broiler to melt to perfection!

nachomamadishes

At this point, Ben was likely considering his options. He had his two best girls competing for his affections with their culinary skills. His was not a position I wanted to be in, for sure, but he handled his judging like a pro! And, honestly, both nacho dishes were incredible! It was the best tasting and most fun dinner we’d made all week!

nachomamajudging

As expected, we were both declared chopped champions in our first (annual???) Nacho Mama Challenge! Woo-hoo!

Oh, and for those interested in the dressing recipes, here you go!

dressings

Jalapeno and Sriracha Mascarpone Dressing

1 cup mascarpone cheese

1-2 T Sriracha (depending on desired spiciness)

1-2 T finely diced (or minced) jalapeno (depending on desired spiciness)

Mix all ingredients together. Melt together in microwave safe dish for 20 seconds. Serve over nachos, spread on tacos or burritos, or use for dipping tortilla chips.

Avocado and Cilantro Mascarpone Dressing

1 cup mascarpone cheese

1/8 cup smashed avocado

2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro

Using a fork, blend the avocado into the cheese and mix in the cilantro. Melt together in microwave safe dish for 20 seconds. Serve over nachos, spread on tacos or burritos, or use for dipping tortilla chips.

*This is a naturally mild dressing, great for kids. If you want some heat, add a tablespoon or two of your preferred hot sauce or jalapeno.

nachoswithdressing

Art of Preservation

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

We, mothers, in particular, become increasingly nostalgic and sentimental once children enter our world. We start to save everything in hopes our child will grow up and desire that curl from her first haircut, the unused preemie diaper (just to prove how small she was), her first holiday dresses, a stack of graded reports or test scores, and so on.

The feeling gets stronger once said child enters school – be it preschool or kindergarten – and starts proudly pulling glued, finger-painted and glittered artwork from her backpack each day. You marvel at her talent, compliment her creativity, and toss each masterpiece into a folder or envelope; over time, these items tear, yellow or become otherwise less incredible as the years eat away at them.

I was incredibly lucky to have a cedar “hope” chest, handmade by my Grandpa Black, in which my parents stashed years of childhood mementos. It held everything from my christening gown to my high school diploma. It housed swimming medals; brochures from vacations; annual school and prom photos; blankets and jewelry; summer camp and school art projects; reports and stories I’d penned; and local newspaper clippings from awards and other accomplishments. While I loved to see much of those items as an adult, I wasn’t committed to saving each piece, thus I tossed most of the swimming medals, tourist brochures, and half-destroyed macaroni ornaments, keeping only the most treasured items to accompany me on my life journey.

cedarchest

It’s my goal to give Gemma a similar treasure trove from which to recall her favorite school and family experiences; and while I’ll still keep her lock of hair and that preemie diaper, I hope to take advantage of some modern technologies along the way to best preserve and organize her school-year memories. This summer I started the annual “look book” project (with help from Shutterfly), in which I’ll compile Gemma’s previous year school projects (art, stories, photographs) into a special book to commemorate her life journey. (And, while I would love to keep all of the original works of art, I plan to save only a handful of items from each year in case she wants to use them as art for her own home or children’s playroom someday.) Preschool has proven a great time to start because there are so many colorful art pieces to create beautiful coffee table books to share with family and friends. 

Here is a peek at the two books I created for Gemma’s 2- and 3-year old preschool years…

kidartbookcover

kidartbookintro

kidartbookfirstday

kidartbookart1

kidartbookart2

kidartbookart3

kidartbookart4

kidartbookclasspic

I love the ability to document her growth (physically, intellectually and artistically) and preserve her childhood experiences in this colorful and creative medium.

Special Notes:

  • There are so many companies offering photobooks these days; you can use any one of them to create your own “look book”. I find Shutterfly easy to use and high quality (and they regularly offer great coupons for big discounts on photobooks).
  • To get the artwork in digital form, I set or taped each piece to an art easel, took a photo of it, then cropped and adjusted the exposure and/or other elements to get the best rendition before uploading to my photobook folder online. I would estimate it took me 5-6 hours (in total) to photograph, edit photos and layout the book.
  • This is also a great way to create special gifts for grandparents or other family members. I used one particular art series in which Gemma used her handprints to create a themed art print each month during her 2-year old preschool year…each month became the artwork for a calendar we gave to her grandparents this year in honor of Grandparents Day.
  • FYI…Gemma does not have aliens in her class. I blurred the faces of her fellow classmates out of respect of their privacy.

Tutorial: Custom Crayons

Do your kids peel the labels off crayons and break them like it’s their job? We’re left with tons of broken crayons and less than inspired artists. Here’s a fun tutorial to re-use those broken bits and re-inspire you and your kids!

What you’ll need:

  • broken wax crayons (all labels removed)
  • silicon mold/silicon ice tray (alphabet or fun shapes; must be oven-safe)
  • cookie sheet or jelly roll pan

Step 1.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Step 2.

Place broken crayons in shape/letter slots in silicon mold. You can mix and match colors as the wax will settle to varying degrees – while some colors will melt and mix into a new color entirely, other colors will hold their own and become multi-colored crayons. I’m guessing this has something to do with either the chemical makeup of the color dye and/or using different brands of crayons with varying wax bases. Oh, and be careful not to overload each space (to avoid overflow once the wax melts).

alphacrayonprep

alphacrayonfill

Step 3.

Place silicon molds on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes (or until all wax chunks have melted).

alphacrayonbake

Step 4.

Remove pan/molds from oven, and let the wax cool for at least one hour.

alphacrayonpostbake

Step 5.

Check to be sure pans and wax have cooled before popping out each shape/letter. (If you have any wax residue left on your mold, run it under cold water and you’ll be able to scrape off the wax bits with your fingernail or a dull knife.)

alphacrayonX

alphacrayonfinal

Step 6.

Color to your heart’s content! You can see above how the colors mixed as they melted…and below how cool they color!

customcrayonheart

Special notes:

  • I found my alphabet mold on Amazon.
  • The letter-shaped crayons are great for coloring at restaurants…they won’t roll off the table!
  • The letter-shaped crayons are a great tool to reinforce letters, words and the alphabet with toddlers/pre-schoolers.
  • This is a fun activity to do with your kids. My daughter, Gemma, helped load the crayons into the pans and got a kick out of watching through the oven window as the wax melted down into the letter slots.
  • These make great gifts! Gemma gave each of her neighborhood friends their own “name in crayons” as a Christmas gift one year.
  • You can use this project to open a dialogue with young kids about ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle” in your home and community.