816 North

Susan Vollenweider | The ‘KAPLOW’ of Crayons leads to a work-at-home lesson

One of the perks of working at home is that I can be available for my children.

One of the downsides of working at home is that I am always accessible to them.

We are still working out the details of a successful method of operation that allows me to get work done while giving them the knowledge that they are my first priority.

(After coffee.)

(Not really.)

One night after supper, Noah came to join me in my office. The office is fairly new — I got tired of moving my work things every night at dinnertime and carved some space of my own in the basement. On my desk there is a box marked CRAYONS.

The crayons in this box are special. Long before I was a wife or a mom, I had a desk of my own in an office of my own in a building full of offices. Part of my job was creative and I found that coloring helped my creativity flow.

In the office of Susan Before Family, I had a package of 72 crayons and several coloring books. When I needed a creative jolt I would color a page and there it was — KAPLOW!

When I set up the new work space, I rescued those crayons from a storage box where they have lived for 20 years, and dumped them into a new storage box on my desk.

When Noah came to join me he spotted the new storage box.

“What’s in there?” he asked.

“What does it say?” I answered not stopping typing.


“Open it,” I suggested with an annoyed tone. I was attempting to stop the chatter.

He took the box to the floor and looked inside.

“Wow! Can I have paper? I want to draw something.”

I nodded toward the printer. “Get some from there, but shhh, I’m trying to concentrate.”

“Mom, what color was your dad’s boat when you were a kid?”

“Tan,” I answered absentmindedly.

“What color was the bottom?”

I sighed and clicked around with the computer mouse. “Get the picture from the printer. That’s it.”

He grabbed the copy and was quiet for a few more minutes. I wasn’t paying much attention until he slid the paper over my keyboard.

“Like this?”

I looked. Not only did he nail the colors and spell the odd name correctly, but he had drawn a girl with a fishing pole.

“That’s you catching the one fish you caught in your whole life.”

Kids will always choke you up when you discover that they remember your stories.

“Mom! Look at these colors!” he said from back down on the floor. “They don't make these anymore. These are vintage!"

“I am, too, Buddy,” I told him trying hard to concentrate on the screen in front of me, but it had morphed from Important Document to a bunch of words that weren’t nearly as important as talking to my son.

“That’s right, they did retire some of those colors.” I pulled him onto my lap so that we both had a good view of the computer screen.

That night we researched the history of crayons, the retired colors and changed names. We had an interesting talk about why “flesh” was an insensitive name for a crayon, and a battle about thistle: pink or purple? He pulled out the retired crayons from my box and printed some support documents to haul to school the next day.

I learned that one of the perks of working at home is that I am accessible to my children.

And that crayons still hold creative power.