Monday, February 28, 2011

A County Champ

esterday, CJ captured 2nd place in the literature category for middle-schoolers at the Hanover County
Reflections competition. The National PTA sponsors the annual art and literary contest for students. Individual competitions are held at schools with winners progressing through various levels up to the national level--much like the National Spelling Bee. (And, you probably remember my involvement coordinating the effort at CJ's school last year!)

CJ won for her school and then took 2nd place among the county's middle schools. Needless to say, we're very excited and proud of CJ's achievements. Her language arts teacher is overjoyed with CJ's work and is her biggest fan (after us!). It is so wonderful to have an encouraging mentor and a cheering fan as your teacher!
When I asked CJ if I could share her work, she said, "Sure, if it brings in more crayons." So, read and enjoy--and let me know if you have crayons!

* * *

Together We Can....
Turn Crayons Into Cupcakes

Peel. Scratch. Peel.

Crayon shavings litter the table, creating a colorful rainbow of paper. Silver muffin tins glimmer like shiny quarters. If you look amongst the peels and scraps, you'll see my mom and me talking and laughing as we rip off crayon wrappers and sort the crayon into little piles. This might seem like a chaotic scene to you, but to me this is one of our favorite charity projects: Crayon Cupcakes.

It all started with a charitable organization in Virginia called the Free Market. The Free Market lets poor people in Richmond pick out a certain number of items for their house, kids, and themselves so they'll have the things they need to live, work, and play. When I heard about this cause, I wondered how many children had art supplies. I wanted those kids to express themselves, too! So I set up an ad in our neighborhood paper, collected all the crayons I could, and started Crayon Cupcakes. We take old, broken crayons, melt them down, and donate them to the Free Market. Crayon Cupcakes got its name from the shape the muffin tins turn the crayon wax into.

The first part of the process comes when we sort the crayons. This is one of my favorite parts, because I get to see all the unique names for one color. There's no yellow, but there is lemon, sunshine, or electric light. There's no green, but there is evergreen forest, spring shrubbery, or lime. I bundle up groups of crayons from all around the color spectrum into Ziploc baggies and store them away in my closet. There they sit patiently, waiting until the day of melting.

Next, we wait until Mom remembers to purchase muffin tins at Kroger and pick a day to start our crayon fest. When the time comes, we haul all the broken, abused crayons out of hiding and perform what I think is the most tedious part of the process--PEELING. I put up a good fight with the stuck-tight wrappers that proclaim, "I am Crayola! Buy me!" But I remember where these Crayon Cupcakes are going and fight till the end. Later, Mom and I will mix and match crayons to make ocean blue or greenish yellow tan. Then it's off to the oven for baking.

While the crayons melt and slowly morph into their cupcake form, I doze off on the green couch in the family room next door, wondering about the families who will get these crayons. Mom tells all kinds of stories about how grateful kids are for the school supplies they've received through the Free Market. She once said a girl was so happy once that she opened up the box and sniffed the crayons! Will my recipients act the same? I ponder these questions and more until I hear Mom call, "I think they're done!" from the kitchen. Then I'll race in to check on our brand new cupcakes.

As the cupcakes cool, I'll marvel at the intricate web of color in each melted mass. Next, we stack the crayons and put them on separate wax layers in a box, usually decorated with signs that say "Crayon Cupcakes! 38 unique, original colors!" Finally, we leave the crayon cupcakes at our church's "Drop Spot" for Free Market donations. As the crayon box slides into the bin, I'll realize that I'm not just giving back to the community, but I'm getting something else too: the satisfaction of giving to others.

And that makes me feel

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