El dinero cuesta.  Hay que ganarse la vida.  If money didn’t grow on trees, it certainly didn’t grow on anything else near our home at least.  No matter how hard my parents worked we never seemed to have enough of this green currency to go around.  Our life was a routine.  Of what we could afford and what we couldn’t afford.  That meant every day was pretty much the same except for the one every week or two weeks where we could afford to go to the grocery store to buy our food.  Even then, there hardly ever was any deviation from eggs and meat, rice and beans, tortillas and sardines.  We ate what we could afford and that was it.

raising a bilingual kid teaching children the value of a dollar

Niños Trabajando por la Paz by Mariana Yampolsky

There was a reason my mother was blessed with a green thumb.  A lot of times her vegetables and fruits are what got us from one paycheck to the next.  You can get pretty creative with a house full of growling stomachs, as many of you all probably already know.

Quarters and dollars were enough for us…. every couple of weeks as an allowance.  We’d pile over to the candy section and buy as much as we could afford collectively.  Those quarter machines with the bubbly bottles were really treasures regardless of how many miniature army men with plastic parachutes they dispensed.  We loved every single one of them because they were brand new.

Once we started making our own money it never seemed to be enough either.  We’d fantasized about one day for so long that when our day of actually having our own jobs came it couldn’t do anything but disappoint.  There wasn’t enough money in those checks to buy nice clothes and shoes.  Certainly not a brand new car or a house either.  Every single penny we earned was just another penny towards whatever we had to take care of right then and there.  That’s probably why to this day I’m such a penny pincher.  Me duele gastar mi dinerito.

Still, we definitely learned our lesson the hard way.  Money did not grow on trees and it was absolutely not meant to be wasted.

The way we’ve raised Edgar until know, without the frills and thrills of extravagant things, I kind of think he gets it too.  At least I hope.  He’s not old enough to put to work yet, but you can bet your dollars I’m counting down the days until I can tell him “you want it?  Save your little pennies and buy it!”  That probably sounds pretty bad, but it’s coming from a place of love.  I promise.

The story of Alejo and Lemonade

Which brings me to the following.  This week I had the opportunity to talk to young Alejo Orvananos.  He’s 11 years old, a fifth grade student and already an entrepreneur.  This weekend, for the third year in a row, he’ll be participating in the nationwide charity fundraiser known as Lemonade Day.  The fundraiser, which first began in Houston through the organization Prepare 4 Life, motivates young children from preschool to high school to organize their own Lemonade stand in their communities.  These Lemonade stands, here in Houston, will all be activated on Sunday, May 6, 2012 to sell a variety of uniquely crafted lemonade recipes from their various owners.  All proceeds raised are then donated to charities across the country selected individually by each young person hosting a Lemonade stand.  Alejo, a senior entrepreneur in this effort now, is so passionate about raising funds for those less fortunate that he’ll be getting an early start on his fundraising this Saturday.

raising a bilingual kid teaching children the value of a dollar

Alejo and his Lemonade stand.

Originally, the son of Mexican nationals, had decided to host a “Latin Fusion” Lemonade stand that would highlight his Mexican heritage, but after careful market research he decided his potential clients, mostly joggers, might be more thirsty for something he’s coined as “Gator-ade,” a combination of lemonade and Gatorade, plus a few other “secret” ingredients the young entrepreneur was not willing to share.  His two younger brothers, a couple of his friends and his parents will also be on hand staffing Alejo’s Lemonade stand.  Did I mention Alejo won healthiest lemonade his first two years of participating in this activity?  This year, he took home third place for most unique lemonade in the city.

If you’re in the Houston area and you’d like to come out and support Alejo, he’ll be at The Chocolate Bar (2521 University Blvd) this Saturday, then at The Galleria on Sunday.  Though, the young businessman in the making says any support for any lemonade stand near you would be greatly appreciated.

“It’s great to give.  If you see a lemonade stand, please stop by and buy a glass of lemonade,” he implores.

Today, Lemonade Day is a nationwide event across 31 different cities.  Just in Houston alone, last year, local youth  raised a total of $2 million for local charities.  You can find out more about Lemonade Day, including how your children might host their own Lemonade stand, at houston.lemonadeday.org.