I returned home from convention today tired but refreshed, overwhelmed but at peace – yes it’s possible to have such conflicting emotions and of course it also makes one quite exhausted. I arrived at the Millennium Hotel in the early afternoon being greeted by my wonderful friend Jenn (who blogs at Fresh Start Academy) who had driven in from Michigan for this event. The room was lovely, I think my only complaint was that we didn’t have a mini-fridge which was listed as being included in our room but Jenn was told upon check in that we had to request it and that it would be an extra charge. Jenn made a lot of trips to the ice machine! We were on the 18th floor which is a bit disconcerting when you’re used to only staying in hotels with maybe a max of 5 floors. Oh, the other disappointment was because the hotel was (almost) completely full I could not access the internet but was kindly told I could come to the lobby – not wanting to check my email or write a blog post in the hotel lobby I was basically internet free since Thursday afternoon until my return home today.
The last few times I’ve gone to convention I’ve stayed at hotels that are in Kentucky so I’ve had to park and leave each day and the traffic can be a challenge. So staying at a hotel that is actually connected to the convention center was so wonderful and I just left my car in the garage as what we needed were within walking distance. Cincinnati is a whole other world – I know I could not live in a big city and it made me thankful my little city in Ohio – even though there is much wrong in my little city – there is no way I could live and thrive in a place like Cincinnati on a daily basis. So after arriving on Thursday and calling my hubby and children to let them know I had arrived safely (I’ve driven to Cincinnati before but never on my own, so it was a bit discombobulating) we ventured over to the convention center to check in, get our packet that had our wrist bands and our tickets to Mark Lowry. After that we left to get dinner, I drove as Jenn couldn’t recall which garage she had parked in! I opted the GPS to take us to the Outback via the scenic back way as I didn’t want to get on the highway again so soon. Little did we know that it was also rush hour even on the back way so a 20 minute drive turned into an hour but we got to see some beautiful roads in Cincinnati that were bright with spring color. After dinner we were thankful the parking garage I left and was full when leaving was no longer full upon our return so we parked and went to the vendor hall.
So having had a great dinner and having explored the vendor hall – which was VERY packed on Thursday as anyone and everyone was welcome to come and shop for free that night (which also made it VERY hot) – we went back to the hotel. Tried to unsuccessfully find something good to watch on T.V. (we’ve been without our local channels since about January and we don’t have cable so I was a little shocked by what passes as good on cable) and we just unwound and talked till late and fell asleep as we had a Schoolhouse Review Crew meet up the next morning. I lived dangerously and ordered the $14.95 breakfast buffet (thankfully my drink was included or I probably wouldn’t have ordered it!) and I ate my fill as the plan was to eat a big breakfast, skip lunch and eat an early dinner before Mark Lowry. Thankfully the service at the Bistro on Elm was much better than the service we had last year which I much appreciated and it was a special splurge. After breakfast we headed over to the TOS booth to have our pictures taken and then we dispersed to explore the vendors and listen to speakers.
We spent most of our day on Friday in the vendor hall – we visited the Notgrass Company’s booth – where we got to meet Ray and Charlene Notgrass, such a wonderful couple. If you remember I reviewed last year and we are still using their America the Beautiful curricula. I hadn’t intended to seek out review products at the convention, my business cards are no longer up to date and I didn’t order new ones so I was just going to enjoy myself but when a curricula you believe in is there it’s hard to not ask. Jenn and I engaged Charlene and Ray in conversation and they blessed us both with the Uncle Sam and You curricula package and I purchased the lesson workbook as well as Charlene’s Daily Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms book. I also purchased my daughters their Beyond Five In A Row volume 1 and 3 for this upcoming year and some other fun stuff like a t-shirt for each child (pictures coming soon), games, and such. As we were heavily loaded even with our rolling carts we headed back to the room to unload, figure out dinner and then get back in time to line up for Mark Lowry.
We decided on Chipolte for dinner but only if we could find one within walking distance and there was! Now I had never tried Chipolte so was excited – and while the food was great – it was like what we have in my city with another type of Mexican food in a bowl. It was so crowded, the line went out the door and almost around the building – so it’s popular and the staff were friendly and helpful. The music was too loud for this woman though so it was hard to carry on a conversation with Jenn without feeling like I was yelling. Did I say Cincinnati was another world yet? Well we got to see some very interesting people and even those who were dressed nicely but asking for money on the sidewalks – we walked VERY fast and probably burned off dinner as quickly as we had ate it. We saw a beautiful hotel called The Cincinnatian that had a bell hop outside and a cute old style London cab car for their guests (Can we stay here next year Jenn? starts out at $159.00 a night) . Horse drawn carriages (if New York makes them illegal, you can come to Cincinnati) and finding out to turn around in Cincinnati you have to go into Kentucky! When we got back to the convention center we got in line for Mark Lowry and The Martins, the tour was called Music and Madness, and it was great. I’ve watched Mark Lowry on shows like Bananas when we had cable and when we can find stuff on Roku and he had new material and the music was great and of course he sang Mary Did You Know (and in case you didn’t know he doesn’t just sing it he also wrote it), which makes me cry every time I hear it. I laughed, I cried and we went back to the room happy and feeling great.
Saturday brought the realization that it was almost time to say goodbye and the end of the convention – Jenn and I are of the mindset that there needs to be a day or two added to the convention as there is not enough time to take in sessions and do what one needs to do in the vendor hall in just the 2 days, well 2 1/2 if you could how late the vendor hall opens on Thursday. We took in a session with Wendy Jeub and we listened to Matt Walsh, I worked my 1:30 to 5:30 shift at Mystery of History (it’s another curricula I believe in and could probably talk for hours about). I reviewed a book last year titled, How Am I Smart? by Dr. Kathy Koch and I really learned a lot from it so when I found out she was at the convention again this year I stopped by her Celebrate Kids booth and got a chance to meet her and she gave me a copy of her newest book (and autographed it!), No More Perfect Kids , Love Your Kids for Who They Are. It was so wonderful to connect with more homeschoolers from around Ohio and other states and meet with those who write wonderful, godly, helpful books whether I’ve reviewed them or not – because they truly empower us to keep on with the good fight and be what we need to be as parents, educators and above all modeling Christ to our children. I’m already looking forward to next year’s convention!
I’ll post some more pictures later on that my friend, Jenn, is providing me as my iPod Touch died and I kept forgetting to bring my regular camera. And if you’d like to read about and see pictures from the first time I went to convention with my other friend, Micki in 2011, read my post Homeschool Convention.
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