Saturday, March 26, 2016

New Car!

After driving the minivan as his primary car since getting his driver's license, we decided it was time for Hamza to get a new car for himself. We did most of the research, and narrowed it down to a Honda Civic, based on cost and safety features. They also depreciate at a lower rate than many other cars. Today we headed to Carmax, to check out the two cars we had reserved, a white and a blue Honda Civic, that essentially had the same features, and a few thousand miles difference. We have bought two used cars from Carmax in the past, and have had a good experience; we like the 'no haggle', fixed price policy.

With all else being almost equal, it came down to color. Hamza liked the blue car a lot better, so that's what we settled on. It really is a very nice blue, a much deeper color than my MINI. The purchase process itself went very smoothly, and we drove out with a new car within 90 minutes of us walking on to the showroom floor. That has to be the quickest car purchase we've ever made!

He is thrilled to have a car of his own, we are just hoping and praying that he remains a safe driver!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The kid's got a plan!

Zakir and Bilal have worked out a deal where he will get paid $5 for washing the cars, maximum once a week. So despite my skepticism, I let him experiment on my car first. My poor car doesn't get washed often, but when it does, I expect it to pass the white glove test. And with all the pollen in the air this spring, I doubted it was going to happened.

He gathered his supplies, and got to work.


Even wiped down the interior!

And although it may not have been white glove ready, by the time he was done, the car definitely looked sparkling clean! My assessment? He earned his $5 on this one. He'll probably be tackling another car this weekend. He is looking forward to saving up and putting money towards a computer. Not sure if he's ready to get a computer yet, and that sounds like a lot of car washing, but he is ambitious! Honestly speaking, the money will probably be burning a hole in his pocket in a day or two. But we'll let him try!

In the evening we took the dog for a walk on a trail near our house. It winds around, and ends up by the high school, and part of it includes a pretty walk along the Cahaba River. The evening was perfect; the sun was still up, and it was just starting to get a tiny bit cool. A beautiful start to spring!




It was a new route for Atlas too, but he seemed to love it.

We will be taking the scenic route more often from here on!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

GaTE Marketplace, year 2

Our entrepreneur is at it again! After the success of selling freshly made waffles at GaTE Marketplace last year, this year I suggested that Bilal find a less labor intensive product to market to the students at Paine Elementary. We grossed a lot of money for the Gifted and Talented Education program, but the work involved was a bit much, especially for the parents! This year Bilal wasn't involved in a partnership, and the product could be made well ahead of time: jewelry. Admittedly, it wasn't a completely unique concept; Hamza sold guitar pick necklaces at marketplace, with a good bit of success several years ago. This year we had made a little over 50 necklaces. We saved money on the raw materials by purchasing guitar picks in bulk online, and keeping the design relatively simple. Also, the clearance racks at Michaels were great!

I got to school a little earlier, and was able to set up the tables before Bilal came.





Some necklaces had charms, others beads, and some both. We also chose some characters such as Star wars, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Star Wars, in particular, is always a hit! This was my favorite necklace, I loved the way it turned out:

Princess Leia!

As is typical, I donated the cost of my materials to the school, so the gross profits were about $68 and some change. Not bad, for 2 hours of work!

Next year will be the final year that Bilal participates in Marketplace, and I know his mind is already spinning with ideas for a new product to sell!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Relaxation

Sometimes you just have to air your undercarriage!

While the felines have their own way of getting comfortable, in particular Sammy:

He loves to toast his buns sitting up as close to the fan heater as he can. Probably feels good on his old, creaky joints!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Montgomery

I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to chaperone the best fourth grade trip of the year, to Montgomery, Alabama. All the more, since I haven't had the chance in the past, to visit the State Capitol, from an educational perspective.

We started off the trip early morning on a dull, slightly drizzly morning. The charter buses were great, and made the almost two hour trip go by a lot faster.

We started off our field trip at the Old Alabama Town visitor's center, where the group was divided into smaller groups, and each assigned a tour guide for the day.


Old Alabama Town is comprised of several buildings from the 1800s, that have been transported to a single location. Some of the buildings have life actors playing the roles of people who lived and worked in that era.

This is the schoolmaster with his paddle in Adams Chapel School (1898). Luckily the kids on our trip were able to stay out of trouble!

The group outside one of the buildings:


The next visit was to the grocery store in town (1890).

This is a shotgun house, an actual house built in the late 1800s. The interior gave us a perspective of how people lived in that era.

Inside, the walls were insulated with newspaper.

Beautification has always been important to the women. This is a flat iron used for hair:

After leaving the house, we paid a visit to the doctor's office.

Inside, were bottles to demonstrate a variety of chemicals used by the physicians. Rather glad that medicine has advanced further than that now!

And outside was a bottle tree. This originated in superstition, and was designed to collect evil spirits. Also for beautification, it was considered the poor man's stained glass window.


The next visit was to a church in the living block. The pews were hand made in the 1800s, and are still very sturdy.

This concluded our visit to Old Alabama Town. After a quick visit to the gift shop, we boarded the charter bus and made a trip around Montgomery, learning a lot about the civil rights movement on the way. Heaven's Depot is where the famous Rosa Parks was employed. the plaque below marks the bus stop where she was arrested when she refused to give up a seat on the bus.



Next stop, the Alabama River, for a ride on a riverboat. Up until this time, the weather held out, and despite a chill in the air, and an overcast sky, no rain.

Lunch break on Harriot II


Cruising down the Alabama River:

After lunch, we paused for a quick group photo, before we headed back into town.

Outside Union Station


Alabama State House



The plaque for the Moon Tree, which grew from seeds that were sent into space and back.

 Amazing architecture inside the State Capitol



The last part of the field trip was a very brief visit to the Governor's Mansion. We didn't have the chance to see much, but by this time the kids were getting tired, and eager to wrap up. It's also when it finally started to rain... quite heavily!


Inside the dining room
 So we headed back to school, with a large group of tired, but very happy kids. All in all, a very productive trip!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Regional Science Fair 2016

The senior research project is a requirement for graduation though Alabama School of Fine Arts' Math and Science program. Hamza has been working on his project since the end of summer, or the start of his senior year. He has spent many hours building and programming his drone, and today he participated in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair (CARSEF), hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was already at UAB by 7:30 am.... a teenager who is rarely awake before 1pm on a weekend!




After setting up the posters, the students presented their projects to the judges. This was completed by noon, when everyone broke for lunch. They reassembled back at the Recreation Center at 3:30 and prepared for the awards ceremony. I, and many other parents, joined the students there in the afternoon. The judging was done by category: Chemistry, Math, Biomedical, Computer, Engineering, Behavioral and Social Sciences, etc. Hamza's entry was in Engineering. The students were also divided into Junior and Senior divisions, based on their grade level.

For the purposes of qualifying for the Alabama Science and Engineering Fair (ASEF), the awards are presented to students with honorable mention, and third though first place in each category. The top three in each division qualify for the state science fair, and the top four in the senior division overall qualify directly for the International Fair in Phoenix, Arizona.

How did Hamza fare? Very well, I'm proud to say. He placed third in the Engineering category, senior division, and has qualified to participate in ASEF, to be hosted in Huntsville, Alabama, later this month. That happens to fall over Spring Break, so I'm glad that we had not made any long distance plans for the week that the kids will be out of school.


All that hard work paid off! There is still some tweaking and additional prep work to be done for the next science fair. I'm sure Hamza will be working on that over the next couple of weeks.

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