The lemonade family

Members of the Brody family faithfully man their lemonade stand on weekday afternoons in the driveway of their house at Charles Street and Northern Parkway. From left to right in the front row are Max, 4, Rcehel, 5, Leo, 8, and Blanche, 6. Behind them are their parents, Mark and Robyn, who want to teach the children the value of hard work. (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh / August 10, 2011)

It's not like life handed the Brody family lemons. They just like making lemonade.

For much of the summer, the family — Mark, who sells life insurance; Robyn, a homemaker; and their children, Leo, 8, Blanche, 6, Rachel, 5, and Max, 4 — have sold homemade lemonade for $1 a cup in their driveway in Homeland.

And it's not just any driveway, but one that empties into the southbound lane of Charles Street at Northern Parkway, one of north Baltimore's busiest intersections.

It's not just any summer, either, but one that has sometimes seemed like one long heat wave, including the city's hottest July on record.

None of that bothers the family, which moved to Baltimore last year from Owings Mills. Most weekday afternoons find them manning a table with a blue tablecloth, plastic cups, a five-gallon cooler of lemonade, a metal can for money, and cardboard signs that say, "Lemonade $1. Go O's," or simply "$1. Thank you."

They took a week off earlier this month, and went to Ocean City. But they were back to work the next week.

Mom makes the lemonade and bubble letters for the signs. The kids color them in, pour the lemonade and carry it to a captive audience of cars sitting at the red light, inches from the driveway.

Even so, their parents keep a close eye on the children and only sell lemonade when cars are stopped so as not to hold up traffic. They only serve to southbound motorists and only if the drivers or passengers ask for lemonade. Mostly, they stay put in the driveway and let the customers reach out to them. Occasionally, a child and a parent will work the sidewalk with a sign.

Each child works no more than an hour, and a sprinkler in the front yard is always on to keep them cool.

The point is not to earn money (the family buys 30 bags of lemons a week) but to teach their children manners and the value of hard work, the Brodys say.

"When it becomes work and not play, we don't do it," said Mark, 44. "The hours are, if I happen to be home and a kid wants to work."

"It's fun," said Blanche, a rising first grader at Roland Park Elementary School. "Sometimes, it's boring."

The family hasn't kept count of its earnings, and Mark said, "We don't make anything."

But each sale is a teachable moment with a tangible reward, such as tickets to Baltimore Orioles baseball games.

In fact, Mark Brody noted, "We got started because Leo (a rising second grader at Roland Park Elementary) wanted to get swim lessons for his siblings."

Said Brody, "I want kids who can stand on their own."

His wife added, "The kids are learning that whatever comes in has to go out."

Max, the youngest, makes the most money: "cute dollars," the family calls it. But he also draws the most scrutiny.

"Max, don't go so far," his dad called out at one point.

The family has drawn its own scrutiny from police. Mark Brody said an officer stopped by, telling them, "We got a call that you have a child working in the heat."