April 30, 2012

Finding the balance: Me time, down time, and cookie stands

How can you not buy a cookie from a kid with a smile like this?

Wow.  It has been really busy. 

In the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself to improve the balance among my kids' and husband's needs, my own needs, and the other "stuff" that needs to get done.  As part of my personal fulfillment, I have been getting involved in more things: things that I am passionate about like yoga and teaching, and many things I am doing because they are the right thing. 

In April I definitely felt the surge in the number of activities on my priority list.  Suddenly I find myself trying to squeeze in lesson-planning, exploring grants, and writing sponsor letters into an already busy week.  I'm on hiatus from jogging (my saddlebags definitely know this) so I can write during those quiet early hours.  Yoga -- thank goodness for yoga -- has been pushed up the schedule to 5:30am and weekends so that I have more time to help at Ryken's school.

By adding more "me" activities, the kids are definitely getting less choice in what they do with their time.  It's true that our family does a fair share of running around -- school, a couple of afterschool classes, library storytimes-- but I have always been an advocate of having a good amount of unscheduled time.  And lately I feel like "our schedule has us," not "we have a schedule".  Kids need to do things that make them feel balanced in their lives, too,   As much as adults, kids need time to decompress from their days.  When my kids come home after school, they love to relax with toys, books, drawing, and board games.  I can tell when they are thoroughly enjoying their down time by the lengthy periods of quiet time and the soft clicking of Legos and Trio blocks and the intermittent squeaks of busy pencils.  But they've been getting less of this lately.

As we were driving home from futsal this Saturday (another of our scheduled activities), Ryken brought up the idea of setting up a lemonade stand.  I admit, I have always dismissed this idea.  We never have enough lemons in the house and the thought of driving to the store to buy the supplies defeats the quaint image of a lemonade stand for me.  So like every other time, I told Ryken we didn't have the lemons that we would need for making lemonade.  Ryken was quiet with obvious disappointment.  After several seconds, he spoke again:  "Mommy, we could sell cookies instead. We could make them, then we can sell them!"  It was a great compromise.  I overrode my patent response of "No" and greenlighted the idea.  How could I argue?  I do love to bake and for our easygoing Saturday, a cookie stand seemed like the perfect weekend activity.

Over lunch the kids and I discussed our plans for a simple cookie sale.  Cookies, signs, stools, and a place to keep the money.  The idea was exciting in the car but right after lunch I could tell it was losing its appeal against a house full of Trio blocks, blank paper and markers, and new library books.  I suggested that I make the cookies and the kids handle the signs and selling.  The kids agreed.  They were eager to do their own things (they craved that down time after Ryken's futsal game) while I prepared cookie dough and baked.  After baking the first sheet of cookies, chocolaty crinkle cookies from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's awesome cook(ie)book, I informed the kids that it was time for their part of the cookie stand.

Ryken and I talked about the impact of clear and attractive advertising, the potential profits or losses and how to determine a good price (the kid wanted to charge $4 a cookie), and the value of friendly customer service.  We ended up with two "chocolate crinkle cookies" signs, and two price tag options ($2 and the eventual winner, $1).  We set up our stand on a shady span of sidewalk and went to work. 

The happy cookie peddlers.  After giving customers their goods, Mr. Service-With-A-Smile Ryken's cheerful parting words were, "Hope you enjoy your cookie!"
For the next two hours, "COOKIES FOR SALE!" rang through the air as cars approached.  Hats were waved, enthusiastic hopping ensued, and miraculously, we actually sold some cookies!  We ended up selling $25 in cookies all of which the kids got to keep.  (Prior to the selling, I did explain to Ryken about operating costs.  This time I was donating my cookies to their cause so they could keep all the money from their sales.  In the future, though, we'll need to figure in the cost of cookie ingredients and mom's labor.  I think it's important to keep it real!)

The kids were thrilled to have made money.  I would be smiling all the way to the (piggy) bank, too!

We had included the kids' own $27 in small bills and quarters to make change.  When the cookie sale was over, Ryken first totaled all the money, change included.  Then he figured out that we needed to subtract the $27 in change from the total in order to know how much we made from the sale.  I loved hearing his thinking process for finding out our profits.

We all had fun with the cookie stand.  I'm so so glad I hadn't dismiss the idea out of my own tiredness.  My kids would have missed a great opportunity to work towards a common goal, learn about how business works, and feel proud of their success.  This was a rich, real-life learning experience and we are already planning to do it again sooner (bigger and better, says Ryken).  I'm hoping to convince my boys to donate some of the next sale's profits to charity.  An allergy-friendly bake sale would be a fitting way to raise money and awareness for FAAN's BJ Hom Memorial Walk in October.  Team Get Allergy Wise could use the extra help!

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