Six Things to Do in Cincinnati

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati is rich with history, culture and things to do. I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this amazing town and look forward to returning.

I have an interest in the history of the United States, the good, the bad and the ugly. I was excited to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  The exhibits at the center are well done and very informative. I had a general knowledge of slavery but had no clue as to what life was like for the slaves. The Freedom Center helped enlighten me.  I naively thought the Slavery Pen was a secret newspaper for slaves. I felt sick to my stomach when I read what it actually was. I cannot even begin to fathom the inhumane acts the slaves endured. Emotionally I was only able to walk through half of the museum before I had to stop. I would like to return and finish the next time I am in the area. Insider tip: the Emancipation Proclamation is currently the special exhibit.

Friday evening I had the opportunity to dine at Taft’s Ale House near Washington Park.  The place was hopping. The former 1850 Protestant Parish turned brew pub is charming. There were only a few gluten free options. I chose the Tri Tip Steak with a salad to replace the potatoes and gravy. The food was delicious and worth the wait. Insider tip: street parking can be difficult. There is an underground parking garage at Washington Park, just a block or two away.

Washington Park is a gem and has something for everybody. There was live music playing and a beautiful set of fountains to splash in. People of all ages were wandering around trying to collect their next Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

The night life scene in this area is very busy. There are many restaurants and pubs in the area. We made our way to Graeter’s Over the Rhine for the most amazing locally made ice cream. They offer free samples to help narrow your selection. It was so delicious that I slurped it up before I could take a picture.  Insider tip: request a cup and get your second scoop of ice cream at a discount price!

Right outside of Cincinnati there are two places I visited that are worth mentioning. The Bluebird Bakery and Chamoda’s Candy Cafe, located on  Chester Road.

The Bluebird Bakery has beautiful pastries and my companions said they were delicious. I opted for a gluten free Buckeye and a tuna salad that was delicious. The service was wonderful and worth a return.

The owners at Chamoda’s Candy Café make you feel like family as soon as you walk in the door. They offer free samples of all their homemade candy.  All the candy is handmade. What makes this place extra special is the story behind this candy store. Chamoda was a UC football player that passed away. He inspired his dad to open this candy store. To honor his son a portion of the profits go to the Chamoda Kennedy-Palmore Scholarship Fund. Insider tip: try the free samples!

Cincinnati is an amazing place and three days doesn’t do it justice. What are your recommendations for when I return in 2018?


The 2016 Brave Writer Retreat

“Hello Beautiful”  was colorfully written in sidewalk chalk as we approached the entrance to The Barn in Sharonville, OH. The interior was charmingly decorated with strings of softly glowing bulbs. Beautiful gift bags waited for each of us. Encouraging signs were placed throughout the space. This was the scene of the 2016 Brave Writer Retreat.

The women who attended this retreat have interacted through various forms of media but very few of us had met in person prior to the retreat. Our online groups had expectations of support and encouragement and these expectations were carried throughout the retreat. It felt as if  I attended this retreat with 150 of my very best friends. I have never experienced this belonging, love and respect before. I found my tribe.

Each retreat presentation is worthy of its’ very own blog post so I will recap the biggest ideas that spoke to me.

The opening evening started off with a bang. Julie’s talk was called, “Updating Charlotte Mason to the 21st Century.” Julie’s humor and wisdom shined through with her comment regarding Charlotte letting down her bun. I walked away knowing that theories may speak to me but when there is struggle those theories may need to be adjusted to fit our current, unique situation. In our family, when we become very rigid and tied to a theory or a schedule, stress increases and our home life suffers which in turn affects learning. I now will give myself permission to take what speaks to me and leave the rest.

Melissa Wiley was our speaker Thursday morning. Her honesty and humor captivated me. She introduced “Tidal Homeschooling.” It was such a relief to find a name for what was naturally occurring in our homeschool. The low tide had always set me on edge because I would feel like we were “falling behind” the public school expectations. Light bulb moment here-for my family it is more important to love learning than keep up with some randomly chosen expectations that may no longer be relevant.

High tide is the more structured learning, where my role is the leader. Low tide is the time where kids pursue their interests and I become the cheerleader. Each tide lasts until interests wane and kids become restless. During the low tide I will be thinking about the next high tide. The other biggie I walked away with was how can we make this day awesome? We can make it awesome by connecting with our children.

After a short break we really started to have fun with “Comics Make You Smart!” Melissa shared a list of SAT words pulled from  Calvin and Hobbes comics. Wow! Mic drop, mind blown! Then she shared a whole genre of comic books I wasn’t aware of. Did you know there is a comic book about the U.S. Constitution? I recalled my love of  comics, especially their humor and wit. In fact, when I was ten, comics helped keep me entertained during a month long hospital stay. Why wouldn’t I share this joy with my own children?

After lunch I joined Stephanie Elms for “The Re-Upping Moment: Tackling the Teen Years at Home.” She had us start by identifying our fears. My fears regarding homeschooling high school boiled down to: did I teach him everything he needs to know because we are quickly approaching the no “redo” zone and how can we deep dive to pursue interests  and still manage the “requirements?” After I wrote my first fear I realized how irrational it sounds. Of course there will be things I didn’t teach him. His learning won’t suddenly stop at the end of high school. Our relationship won’t suddenly end. The most important thing I can do is to teach him to be a lifelong learner. Again, Steph reiterated the importance of maintaining a relationship with your teenager to help make sure the path fits your child’s needs rather than making your child fit to the path. The other really big idea that struck me is “there is no educational emergency.” Say what-why am I wasting all this energy worrying?!!?! Community colleges can help shore up any deficient academics areas. Finally, and most importantly, I need to help my teenager stretch and grow without affecting his relationship with learning.

Friday we discovered what home means to us. We participated in a free write. Benevolently reframing has changed my life. It allows me to tell the truth but reframe it in a positive light. This speaks to my optimistic nature. Time was set aside in the afternoon so we could begin to process the retreat and look towards the future. I realized when I don’t take care of myself I become more and more negative. This isn’t healthy for anybody. It is imperative I take time to do some #awesomeadulting so I can have our best version of home.

I  returned with a sense of peace and acceptance for my journey and our homeschool. In the time following the retreat our home has become more relaxed and fun. My teenager was eager to tell me the things he would like to learn. I have had fun cooking with my daughter and discussing the reasons behind her dislike of copy work. I have even managed to pursue my own passion and attend a tap class and go on a date with my husband. Life is good.  There are still gems from the retreat to process and apply and those will come in time. This retreat is what my soul needed.

Have you ever attended a retreat that rocked your world and allowed you to make significant personal growth? I would love to hear about it.

Lessons Learned-Bathroom Spruce Up

It has been an interesting two weeks. My husband and son went on a trip. This appeared to be the perfect opportunity for my ten year old daughter and I to change out the bathroom sink and faucet, something I have never attempted. I have learned so many lessons.

  • First, projects will take at least twice the amount of time than expected to complete.
  • Pee traps are disgusting and will make your eyes water and your stomach lurch!
  • Bone sinks aren’t a popular in stock item and oval sinks don’t fit into round holes. Travel time to Alaska for a replacement sink could be 5-8 weeks at the big box stores. Fortunately, there are other stores that carry bone colored drop in sinks.
  • 10 year old girls like hammers and chisels!
  •  Make sure the hoses are long enough to connect and that the hoses connect properly prior to applying the silicone to the stink. Hoses do stretch and the hands of a 10 year old are nice for reaching into tight places to detach the hose.
  • You Tube is a valuable resource when you have a leak.
  • Painting vanities take a lot more time than expected.
  • Painting and patience go hand in hand.
  • Sometimes you just have to cut the blob of paint out of your hair. I hope my hairdresser doesn’t notice.
  • The paint for wall will be staying in the can for awhile.

Living life and learning new things is one of the best examples I can provide my daughter. The sense of accomplishment and team work will be worth the hard work and late nights.

What tips do you have for a bathroom spruce up?

10 Things I Learned From the Death of my Smart Phone

I had just put the turkey in the oven and checked my phone for the latest updates. There was a sudden brightness and my phone started an endless cycle of the start up screen, the blue screen of death and a dark screen. The phone would not power down. At first I was upset. What would I do without this little piece of convenience at my fingertips? I was surprised at what I learned.

  1. I miss connecting with my family.
  2. I no longer own an alarm clock.
  3. It is easier to fall back asleep in the wee hours of the morning without checking on the latest news, weather, Facebook updates or Words with Friends games.
  4. Owning a smart phone has made me reliant on it.  I only have memorized the phone numbers of my husband and my children. I don’t know the phone number of my dad or my brother.
  5. My elbow isn’t made to always be bent while looking at my phone every spare minute. I blamed lifting weights.
  6. I don’t miss needing to know. I survived without the latest  status updates,  photos, weather or emails.
  7. It is okay to be in the moment and not do anything while waiting in line.
  8. The forced down time allowed me to focus on and figure out some personal things.
  9. I had “time” to write.
  10. Losing over one thousand pictures doesn’t erase the memories. It made me realize I need to be in the present to make the memories, not looking into my phone trying to get the perfect picture.

And because it is the season of giving here is one extra:

  1. It is okay to not be busy. My frenetic swiping and typing made me look like a lab rat addicted to cocaine. No more. I am in control of my time!