Holding you breath until you get your own way and repeating everything your sister says until she falls to the floor screaming are good things to outgrow; Easter eggs are not.
Yet, unless they have small children, most adults skip the ritual of coloring eggs -- a pity since of all the spring rituals (paying income tax, renewing license plates) it's the only one that's fun.
The American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress recently sponsored workshops on egg decorating, and the ideas they presented could be copied by any consenting group of adults, preferably wearing aprons or smocks so that, when the dye is cast, it will not be cast on them.
Dyes can be made from food coloring, thoses little packets that are sold with dye strips or tablets, egg hoops and marking crayons, or with natural ingredients. The Folklife Center suggests that a dark yellow dye can be made from 1/3-cup brown-onion skins and 2 cups water; a pale blue from 1/2-cup red-onion skins and 2 cups water; green from new mint and tender ivy leaves, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 2 pinches of alum (which should be available at pharmacies); and an orange-yellow from 1 tablespoon powdered turmeric, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 2 pinches of alum. Simmer the various mixtures for 15 minutes until the color is strong, strain out the dye ingredients and simmer the eggs in the liquid until they take on the desired hue.
For more elaborate effects, there are kits to help produce the colorful designs of Ukrainian Easter eggs. These eggs are decorated in what is called batik or wax resist style, protecting areas that are to remain a given color with a thin coat of beeswax before dipping them into subsequent dyes. Exactly the technique used when a child scrawls Mommy on an egg with a wax crayon and then pops it into a bowl of blue dye.
To draw something more complicated than a name, the kits come with a small metal wired to a short stick. The funnel is filled with beeswax, held over a candle until the wax melts and the design is drawn on the egg. Traditionally the lighter tones are dyed first, going on through the darker hues.After the egg is dyed it is held near a candle flame until the wax melts and can be wiped off with a soft cloth.
Obviously, if the eggs have already been hard-boiled you are not going to be able to keep them forever, so if you think you may produce a work of art, dye them without cooking them. Then take a needle and poke holes in each end and blow out the stuffing. Do not expect to whistle for a while after doing this, nor should you hollow the egg before you dye it; it will float to the surface of the dye pot and color unevenly.
Two local sources for pysanky kits are Kalyna, 115 King St., Alexandria, (836-4954), which carries kits ranging in price from $4.50 to $10.95, and the Frame Mart Gellery, 3307 Connecticut Ave. NW, (363-5200) with kits from $4.10 to $11.95. You also can get one by mail from The Country Store, Washington T 3-1, Va., 22747, enclosing $7.95 plus $1.75 for shipping.