first annual cheverly STEM chess tournament

the folks at Cheverly STEM thought that the best way to kick off their new Chess class in the upcoming Winter session was to have a chess tournament hosted by local DC chess hero and subject of the movie Life of a King, Eugene Brown, who uses chess to teach inner-city children a life-lesson he learned the hard way: always think before you move.

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radianceGirl did pretty good. she lost in the first round (to the guy who won the tournament), won twice, and tied once. not too shabby, mashaAllah.

homeschool day at the national aquarium

when it comes to driving my girls to homeschool activities
i can be quite provincial.
baltimore? too far!
but not when i get take three children (and an infant) to the national aquarium on the cheap.

have you seen their prices?
adult tickets are about $35 and children 3 and up are about $22.
not ghastly, but why do it if i don’t have to.
it’s not all about money
but it is all about saving money whenever and wherever i can.
we’re a single-income family of 7.

a homeschool mom hooked us up:
we got in for $28.
not each. total.
(plus parking garage costs and food
because they don’t let you bring in a bag lunch.)

it was perfect.
we came with friends.
there were no crowds.
we were able to catch a few demonstrations.
we did the whole aquarium without the kids getting (too) tired.
and i made it out of the gift shop without being badgered into getting anything.

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aquariums (and zoos) kinda make me sad for the animals
(especially when i saw the dolphins),
but then again, we would not have be able to see these various ecosystems-in-miniature up close
unless we were friends with an underwater biologist.

i take solace that these animals are just a small fraction of what exists in our oceans
and that this experience will help us all be more mindful of our effect on and connection to our shared earth.

exploding soda

my little girls had a messy science experiment to do
so we took the opportunity of an uncharacteristically warm december day
to do the exploding soda experiment from
Yikes! Wow! Yuck! Fun Experiments for Your First Science Fair.

you take mentos and a tube (made of a sheet of rolled paper)…
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and put the mentos in a tube.
line the tube up with the opening of a bottle of soda.
(an index card between the tube of mentos and the soda allows quick deployment.)
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and you get a tall, sticky, wet explosion.
(this wasn’t even the highest one.)
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they tested cola, diet cola, lemon lime and diet lemon lime trying to determine which type of soda spewed the most amount of soda. i thought this was a chemistry experiment, but according to the mentos FAQ, it’s not:

The reaction occurs because of a simple rule of physics. Soda drinks contain a certain amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) dissolved in water in the form of tiny bubbles. This combination of water and CO2 molecules is in a permanent unstable state. When Mentos fall into this liquid, this state is disturbed. The more Mentos that are dropped into the liquid the more this state is aggravated. The reason for this lies in the surface of a Mentos which looks smooth but is actually vary rough! Within the nooks and crannies of the microscopic rough surface, bubbles form, which are in turn transformed into foam, which can lead to very impressive foam fountains.

the mentos folks also gave a link to further explanation and lots of impressive exploding soda videos at eepybird.com. next time i’ll have to spring for the diet version of “the real thing”, coca cola; apparently that gives the highest fountains.

i learn all types of interesting (and sometimes useful) tidbits along side my girls all the time.

diving into the tempest

it all started with my desire to read Shakespeare with my big girls.
i scoured the local theaters to see which of the Bard’s plays would be out soon.
i found that Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) would be putting on The Tempest in December.
that was our play.
i checked out a dozen books from the library
about the play itself and about Sir William.
then — by Allah’s mercy — I found out about a 15-week homeschool Shakespeare class at STC focusing on The Tempest.
less work for me. a lot less.

here radianceGirl performs portions of The Tempest with her homeschool peers on the final day of the class:

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then STC announced Family Week at the Tempest. glorious!
we did just about everything and it was all FREE!
can you feel my glee?

we saw The Tiny Tempest, based on the play but re-envisioned for younger audiences.

we went to The Tempest Costumes: Designing a World and got up close and personal with costumes from The Tempest and learned how costumes get from the designer’s mind to an actor’s body from Costume Director Wendy Stark Prey.

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we went to Playing the Play and did all sorts of theatre games to learn more about the plot of The Tempest.

the big girls did the Drawing from The Tempest workshop with Gareth Hinds, illustrator and author of critically-acclaimed graphic novels, who led these young artists in crafting a short comic inspired by the classic text of The Tempest.

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for the finale we saw STC’s professional production of The Tempest…wait for it…for FREE!
how? let me tell you.
STC has had one of its most brilliant ideas. it’s called Free Will.
in order to open doors to new audience members
they are giving away 1000 tickets per production free of charge.
tickets can be reserved starting mondays at noon for performances during that week.
awesomesauce.

and let me tell you.
we had good seats.
like second row, center, orchestra seats.
signGirl (age 7) turned to me during the play and said, “Mom, I LOVE this!”
i don’t know if our spectacular seats were a fluke,
but my girls and i definitely enjoyed every magical moment.
even if we got a parking ticket afterward.