Divots and Entrepreneurs

“How much do you think I could get for this on eBay?”  Ryan was holding up a  chunk of sod and grass that, in golfers lingo, is called a divot.  It’s what’s left after a golfer takes a hard shot at a ball lying on the grass.

We were at the President’s Cup in San Francisco and all the big names in golf were there with us:  VJ Singh, Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir, Ernie Els, Fred Couples…and, everybody’s favorite, Tiger Woods.

It was Tiger’s divot that Ryan was holding.  Normally, spectators don’t get to pick up after players.  There’s a rope that keeps us on one side and the players on the other.  Professional golfers usually hit their tee shots right down the center of the fairway.  But, as good as he is, Tiger has been known to veer off in either direction.  And that’s exactly what happened to us yesterday.

“It’s coming our way!”  That’s what I heard right before I looked down and saw a small white ball roll right past my shoes.  Tiger’s ball.  For a second, it was a little surreal.  This had just happened two holes before with Ishikawa’s tee shot.  His ball rolled right beside me, as well, and we were within several feet of him, watching him take his second shot.

And now, Tiger’s ball was literally inches from my toes.  Well, you can imagine what the crowd was like.  And I wasn’t moving until someone made me.  Which is exactly what happened.  But even so, I was feet away from the ball, and then, feet away from Tiger, watching him size everything up.

And then, just before he took his swing, I saw him close his eyes.  He was visualizing.  This is a powerful technique used by a lot of athletes to see the play in their minds first.  And it’s a technique that is used a lot for anyone who has a specific goal in mind.  Seeing the goal in your mind can help you as you work towards attaining it.  It’s a great thing to teach kids, for whatever goals they may have.

But back to Tiger.  He was about 240 yards from the pin.  The pin couldn’t be seen from where we were standing because of several trees.  I was wondering how he was going to play it since it wasn’t a straight shot.  And that’s when I learned the true meaning of a pro.  He didn’t need to take a straight shot.  When I watched his ball sail into the air and then make a left turn towards the pin, well, I’m not sure I can describe the sense of awe I felt.  I didn’t know that could be done.  I sure as heck haven’t seen John or Nathan do that.

Ture to form, Ryan had staked out that divot as soon as the shot was taken.  He had it in his hands in seconds and I was looking for a second baggie to put this one in. (Ishikawa’s was already in our fanny pack.)   

That’s when Ryan asked me how much he could get for the divot on eBay.  I love the way he thinks.  Even though I’m pretty sure the answer is ‘zilch’ the fact that he’s looking at the potential of a piece of dirt means he’s open to being presented with possibilities where the answer may not be ‘zilch’.  And that’s the sign of a true entrepreneur.

And for anyone who’s interested, we have Tiger’s divot off the first tee at The President’s Cup.  I’m sure we can negotiate a good deal.


5-Year Olds DO Get It

I had the pleasure of a phone conversation with my 5-year old niece, Olivia, the other night.  We were chatting about her first weeks in Kindergarten.  Apparently, Ian had brought in a pretty nifty coin collection because she talked about it for about a minute, which, if you know anything about five-year-olds, is a pretty long time for any one topic!

So that led to a discussion (albeit, short) on money.  I asked her what she knew about money.  “You buy stuff with it.” 

“If you could buy anything you wanted, what would you buy?” I asked her.

“Bubble gum, candy, and toys,” she replied.  Hmmm, I was thinking.  Time to get her mom to put her on an allowance program using KidsSave.

I knew I didn’t have much time left with this topic so I if I was going to only get one more question in, this was it:

“Do you save any of the money you get?”

The answer was priceless (pun intended!).  “Yes!  One day I want to be rich.”

And there it is.   Five-year olds know what money is for, they know it’s important, and they know that if they want to be rich, they’re going to have to save some of it.  And just when I was going to ask a follow-up question, she says, “I’m done talking about money.  Let’s talk about Halloween.”

Bumper Sticker: I Break for Lemonade Stands

Okay, this one’s too cute.  John walked in from work this afternoon holding two teeny paper cups.  And I mean teeny.  The ones really young kids use after they’ve brushed their teeth.  The ones that hold maybe two ounces of liquid.  He held them up to me and said, “I stopped for orange juice.”

We are big believers in kids getting a chance to exercise their entrepreneurial spirits.  And it usually starts with the infamous lemonade stand, or in this case, orange juice stand.  I’ve seen kids who I would never consider the lemonade stand type out on the corner selling their brew.    

I really feel that kids are born with a desire, and the gift, to do something constructive that can earn them a little extra money while having fun.  Somehow, slowly over time this desire disappears. 

Kids are optimists.  Because of this they tend to think they can conquer the world.  That’s not a bad thing.  But often, parents need to bring kids back to reality.  I’m not sure how to help you build a teleporter is one time I remember having to do a reality check on Nathan.  How do you explain to a first grader that having voices travel over the airwaves is a little different than having a person travel through space and time.

But because kids are optimists I also think we need to take the time to help them think through some of their ideas.  Maybe if we do that, kids won’t slowly give up that entrepreneurial spirit they seem to be born with.  Not all their ideas will come to fruition, but you may find that you’re pleasantly surprised.  Like I was when Ryan decided to start a soda-making business.

So the next time you see kids having a lemonade/orange juice stand… stop.  And when their little hands submerge the teeny cup into the pitcher then hand you a sticky, dripy cup…smile.  That quarter you just handed over could be the beginning of a huge empire.  Maybe one that will one day teleport you to your next business meeting.

The Red Ink Flows

With absolute seriousness, Ryan glanced up from the kitchen table and wanted to know what ‘red ink’ they were talking about.  After all, he said, he has only ever seen the morning paper covered in black ink.

On his quest to find the comic section this morning Ryan stumbled across the title of an article on the front page, The Red Ink Flows, from which came his query.  Even if he had read the words that followed…deficit could hit $21.3 billion… it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.   How could he know that red ink (in the red) refers to a loss?  It’s not exactly intuitive.

Which made me think about other money phrases, or idioms.  Things like money doesn’t grow on trees, saving for a rainy day, made of money, penny pinching...  As adults, we’ve been saying them so long we tend not to think too much about the literal meaning.  But taken literally, they’re hilarious.

Which then gave me an idea for a fun lesson to do with my money students…having them represent a money idiom of their choice through a drawing.  Not only will it be fun to draw something ridiculous, but it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce the meaning behind the phrases.  There’s wisdom, or at the very least some interesting conversation, to be found in those words. 

See if you can guess some of these “illustrations”:

  1. a pot cooking on the stove filled with books
  2. fingers squeezing a penny
  3. a nicely dressed penny
  4. a lady at the checkout counter handing over an arm and a leg (okay…maybe this one won’t make the list…)
  5. a baby with a spoon in it’s mouth
  6. a mouth filled with bills and coins

Did you figure them out?

  1. cooking the books
  2. penny pinching
  3. pretty penny
  4. costs an arm and a leg
  5. born with a silver spoon in his mouth
  6. put your money where your mouth is

 Do you have any favorites?

Ryan’s Geometry Book

Ryan’s geometry book has been sitting on top of the dryer for about two weeks.  I finally got tired of looking at it and asked him about it this morning.  “Oh yeah, that’s our book,”  he said.  I was a little confused.  I don’t remember buying a geometry book.

“They wouldn’t take it back because the edges are all frayed since it’s been in my backpack.”  Apparently the book is the first in a two part series and when the teacher collected them his fell in the ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, you think we’re going to take that thing back?‘ category.  It did look pretty bad.

“So did the book cost you any money since they won’t take it back?” I asked.

“Yeah, fifteen bucks.”  He did not look happy.

I had to chuckle at his next words, “I am so not going to use the other book.  It’s upstairs in the cupboard and I’m not touching it.  I’m going to use hotmath.com instead.  It’s going to be brand new when I return it.”  He was on a roll.  I started laughing.

I’ve written about Ryan and his late library book before.  I didn’t even know about the late book fee until I found some change in his backpack.  Same with the geometry book.  I didn’t even know he needed to replace the book until I got sick and tired of looking at it on top of the dryer.

That’s what happens when you put kids in charge of their own stuff.  Hey, it wasn’t my fault that he kept his geometry book in his backpack until it was falling apart.  I’m so not paying for that.  And considering the new book is hidden in the cupboard upstairs, well that just shows he learned a lesson.   And that’s what giving kids responsibility does.  At least when they’re held accountable.  But that’s another story.

Flashback: Bounced Check

I was going through my binder of story ideas for my monthly Kidnexions Connection newsletter and found a post-it with a story about Nathan.  It’s a good thing I took the time to write the story down because I had forgotten all about it.  So here’s the first in a series I’m calling ‘Flashback’ as I remember or find things my kids did when they were growing up that relates to learning about money.

Sometimes we adults use vocabulary words that don’t always make sense to kids.  It’s hard to do it any other way, though,  since kids  arrive on this planet with little understanding of any words.

But as our kids get older it’s easy to forget that something that makes perfect sense to us makes absolutely no sense to them.  Take the words ‘bounced checks’.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve bounced a check, and that happened because a roommate of mine handed me her rent check without the funds to back it up.   My VERY FIRST mortgage payment in my entire life bounced because of that.  Lesson learned:  just because someone has a full-time job doesn’t mean they have any rent money.  And there’s a reason people collect first and last month’s rent.

But back to Nathan.  I’m not sure what the context was, but apparently I had used the words ‘bounced check’ while he was listening.  It was probably something like, “I can’t believe my VERY FIRST mortgage check bounced because she didn’t have the money to pay for rent and never told me…”  But whatever it was, he realized that bouncing checks was not a very smart thing to do.  

Apparently he’d been giving this some thought because he finally came up to me and asked,  “Is it okay to bend checks?”  (He does know what checks are.)  And honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about until he told me that he heard me say that bouncing checks was a bad idea.  It made me wonder what visuals went through his head when he thought of checks bouncing.

Freudian Slip

I was working with a group of 4th and 5th graders on Pet Project, a project where kids get to take care of a pet for a year.  Part of the project requires kids to go through catalogs and buy things for their pet.  They need to fill in a real order form and write a check using some old checks I saved when I closed an account (with all important information blacked out).

They love this project because they get to make their own choices. They also love it because they get to learn how to write real checks and keep a running balance simulating what adults do.  As they were flipping through the catalogs, I overheard one of the girls say to her friend, “Why don’t you just bring it to work tomorrow?”  in reference to something she wanted to see.  Then she started laughing and said, “I can’t believe I just said ‘work’.  I meant to say ‘school’ but we’ve been sitting here doing all this adult stuff, it just slipped out.”

I love it!  That’s exactly what they’re doing…adult stuff.  One day they’re going to be adults and now is the time to get them ready. And what better way to learn than through a fun project that allows them the flexibility to make their own choices.  Because learning how to make good choices, well that’s another skill they’re going to need when they grow up!