InstaOctoNovember

If that title doesn’t have you thoroughly confused, then I haven’t done my job well. What it translates to is the fact that I forgot to post InstaOctober last month, but I’m too OCD to actually skip a month. As if hordes of you will show up at my front door and say, “HEY, lady. What gives with the missing Instagram highlight reel?” But just in case any one of you are en route, here it is. And I certainly couldn’t handle missing November, or moving every post back two months, because that just doesn’t make any sense. (But this line of thinking clearly does.) I should probably stop talking.

OctNovIG

1. We took a little road trip up to Chicago in November for the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. When I realized Eataly was just a few blocks from our hotel, I knew a visit was in order. If it wasn’t totally disgusting and against every health code, I’d want my ashes scattered here. I’ve never had any inclination to climb cheese, until I saw this intriguing sign in the cheese department.

2. Obligatory Bean photo every tourist takes in Chicago.

3. As part of the Toy & Game Fair, Mayfair Games held a very serious, very competitive Settlers of Catan tournament. The winner earned him or herself a trip to Gen Con to compete in the Catan World Championship. I promise I’m not making that up. Mike is the King of Catan in this house, as evidenced by his very official Catan crown the kids made him last year. He wore it to the tournament, right up until he lost in the semifinal round.

4. You know how you have the strictest rules and best advice about parenting … until you actually become a parent? The same holds true about being a pet owner. I swore up and down I would never let a dog sleep in bed with me. And then Gus gave me that look, and I said, “Okay. Just this once.” And then I realized happiness really is a warm puppy. The couch is still off limits. I swear (for now).

5. Elena and I have dreams of one day entering a gingerbread creation into Conner Prairie’s annual Gingerbread Village. We inched one step closer by taking a Gingerbread 101 class together at Conner Prairie. This is one of those traditions that I realize now I started waaaaaaay too early with my kids. Twelve is good. Twelve and in someone else’s space, where they clean up after you is even better.

6. Have I mentioned Eli is in Cub Scouts this year? He begged us to let him do it, mostly because he’d heard a rumor there would be BB guns. At this point it’s more like herding cats, but he did manage to earn his Bobcat badge.

7. I took my sister and my mom on a day trip to Cincinnati for some IKEA and Jungle Jim retail therapy. On the way home I introduced them to the best fried chicken in Indiana. If you find yourself near Oldenburg, Indiana, make sure you stop at Wagner’s and have some pan-fried deliciousness.

8.  Elena played volleyball this fall. It was 2% her wanting to try it, and 98% me wanting her to find a sport (any sport!) she might like. She ended up being the only one on her team who hadn’t played volleyball for multiple seasons. You’d think that would be a recipe for disaster, but she did great. She didn’t complain (much) and she improved drastically through the season. This particular photo is her serving to get her team into the championship game.

9. I had the opportunity to work alongside Future Farmers of America from around Indiana at the Colts annual Million Meals Marathon. The Colts partner with Thrive360 (formerly Kids Against Hunger of Central Indiana) to pack a million meals that will find their way to families facing hunger in Indiana. I packed for 2 hours, along with a couple of Colts cheerleaders, blogging pals, and the Colts Defensive End Cory Redding. It was such a cool experience, and I can’t wait to do it again with Mike and the kids.

10. What every parent’s floor looks like if they have a LEGO fan in the house … just kidding. It’s actually a sea of LEGO bricks for kids to play in at LEGO KidsFest. Super fun and a cool photo op, if you don’t think about how many germy little hands have been all over those bricks.

11. Mike and I have been able to go to two Colts games this year. This picture is from a home game against the Bengals. Incredible seats and lots of fun for us. Not so much for the Bengals fans we took with us. The weekend before last we went to the Colts game in Cleveland. The horse head did not make that trip with us. We’re not stupid.

12. My friend Sacha clued us into a KaBOOM! playground build that was happening in our community. I’m a big fan of KaBOOM! and their passion for making play accessible to kids in every kind of community, so it was a very special thing to be able to help. I hauled mulch for a bit and Elena helped paint signs for the new playground.

If you’re not already following me on Instagram already, please do! You can find me there as (the one and only) AngieSix.

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4 Innocent Traps That Will Foil a Simple Christmas

We all crave a simple Christmas with less stress and more joy. Despite our best intentions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Avoid these innocent traps, and you’ll be able to truly enjoy a peaceful holiday season.

It’s just two weeks until Christmas, weeks that I’m sure will fly by in the blink of an eye. The tree is up and the house is decorated. In the evenings I make my way through the Christmas card list in a leisurely way, sipping cocoa or a hot toddy and listening to my favorite Christmas tunes. The gifts have been purchased, just waiting to be wrapped. This weekend we have a few Christmas parties and tickets to see a performance of The Nutcracker. Yes, it really it beginning to feel like Christmas.

It’s at this midpoint between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I always feel as if there’s a fork in the road. If there were signs, they would point in two directions. One path would lead you straightaway to a simple, peaceful holiday. The other would lead you twisting and turning towards a holiday full of stress. The problem is, they’re not easily distinguished. The entrances to both paths look like good old-fashioned holiday cheer.

The good news is, as easy as it is to get on the wrong path during the holidays, it’s just as easy to stop and change directions. It’s always okay to reevaluate mid-season. I’ve traveled both paths, and I’ve found that the road towards a stressful Christmas is full of traps that will foil a simple holiday. Avoid them now, and enjoy the holiday to the fullest.

Trap #1: Your Email

Yes, your inbox is a huge source of potential holiday stress. It seems as if every morning between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I wake up to an inbox overflowing with deals, deals, and more DEALS! At the beginning of the holiday season, these notifications can be helpful and cost-saving. I scan all the emails from Shutterfly, Minted, and Tiny Prints before ordering my Christmas cards, and always score a great deal. If there’s something I want to purchase from a certain store, I want to know if I can get more bang for my buck. But after you’ve decided what you’re buying, and – more importantly – after you’ve made your holiday purchases, these emails serve no purpose in your life. They’ll either suck valuable time you could be spending doing things you enjoy with people you like, or they’ll suck your wallet dry by getting “deals” on things you never meant to buy in the first place. Don’t even open them. Try it with me, friends: delete, delete, delete.

Trap #2: The Stores

It starts innocently enough. You’re just popping into the mall for that one last teacher gift, and then you wander to this store and that. Before you know it, you’re buying. Or you’re coveting. Or both. I’ll see something Elena would love, then realize I need to balance it out and buy something else for Eli. Only there’s nothing at this store, so maybe I’ll just run over to this other store and get it. But they’re out. On my way to the other store, I hit traffic. The errands I only planned 2 hours for are now taking up the whole day, meaning that other thing I was going to do isn’t going to get done today. Now I spend the evening stressed about it, and instead of watching a fun holiday show with the kids, I’m yelling at them because inside I’m mad at myself. You see where this is going? Once you’re done with your holiday shopping, stay away from the stores.

I do love to window shop during the holidays, though, so it’s a battle for me. To avoid falling into a shopping trap that will end up stressing me out and costing me more than I intended to spend, I balance it by creating New Year wish lists. Then, when birthdays and the holidays roll around again the next year, I have a list of great gift ideas already waiting for me.

Trap #3: Pinterest and Social Media

I love Pinterest and I love Facebook, but I also recognize that there are times of the year when I need to take a break. This point in the holidays is often one of those times. There are simply too many beautiful ideas, and soon I’m feeling like a failure. How did I not throw a themed gingerbread-house-making party with a fully-stocked hot cocoa bar? Is it too late to make my own Advent calendar? My own vanilla? I should run to Hobby Lobby, it would be so (not-really) easy! (See Trap #2).

Trap #4: Traditions

Before you call me Scrooge, I promise I’m not saying all traditions are evil. The problem arises when you try to fit ALL the traditions into a few weeks. You just can’t do it, at least not without somebody (most likely you) losing their mind. Here’s the thing. All of those little things you want to do add up very, very quickly, and before you know it you haven’t left any margin in your holiday season. The most magical and peaceful holiday moments happen in the margins, when we allow ourselves the freedom to just be. Not rushing from one event to the next, not preoccupied with what’s left on the to-do list, not worried about the credit card bill that will come in January.

If my family is reading this, they’re giving me the big ol’ stink eye right about now. Because of anyone, I am the absolute WORST at trying to pack in as much as possible. I love it all, and I want everyone to love it with me! But not everyone cares as much about the things I think we must do as I do. Instead of enjoying ourselves, we all end up stabby. Try this: the next time you’re all sitting down together, have everyone make a list of their top 3 or 4 holiday traditions. Compare them, and the answers will probably surprise you. My kids love the simplest of things: driving around and looking at the lights with a to-go cup of hot coca, watching Christmas movies, decorating cut-outs. That’s it. That’s all they need for a holly, jolly Christmas.

I can’t remember where I read this, but this was the gist: if you’re life isn’t adding up, subtract something. The same goes for the holidays. If the season isn’t adding up to joy and cheer for you, subtract a holiday-related commitment from it. Skip the cards this year. Don’t bake those cookies. Give your regrets to that party. It will be ok. And if you realize at the end of the season you really missed that tradition? I have good news for you: there’s another Christmas in 2015.

The most important thing I can tell you is that, like anything in life, there are many paths. No two holidays will look alike for any two families, and that’s okay. Give your family, and yourself, the very best gift possible this Christmas: a content and peaceful holiday. It’s enough. You’re enough.

Happy holidays, friends.

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Celebration Crossing: Where Hoosier Holiday Traditions Past & Present Meet

Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum

Growing up in central Indiana, the holidays weren’t complete without a visit to downtown Indianapolis. We’d drive around the circle to see the Soldiers and Sailors monument lit up like a giant Christmas tree. Some years we’d have tickets to the Symphony’s Yuletide Celebration. Other years we’d catch a performance of the Nutcracker at Butler.

From 1922 until 1992, the true highlight of the Indianapolis Christmas scene centered around the department store L.S. Ayres. I graduated high school and moved away from home in 1993, so I was part of the last generation of Hoosier kids who knew the wonder of the holidays that existed within L.S. Ayres. My mom was (and still is!) a recycler of holiday gift boxes, and so for years after Ayres was gone, we still received gifts in their iconic holiday boxes – bright red boxes with a Christmas tree in the corner.

Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum

Like my mom’s Christmas boxes reappearing every year long after Ayres had shut its doors, the Indiana State Museum has managed to bring back the nostalgia of Christmas in Indianapolis long ago. Each year the Museum hosts a very special exhibit, Celebration Crossing. While elements of the exhibit change every year, one thing remains the same: recreating the best parts of that beloved Hoosier holiday tradition.

We had a very special chance to preview the exhibit last week before it opened to the general public. We gazed at the beautifully recreated L.S. Ayres store windows.

Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum

The kids rode the Santa Claus Express through a winter wonderland, and marveled at the original. It now sits on display at the Museum, after dutifully transporting nearly 30,000 children a year to Santa’s house. I marveled at the fact that this is likely Elena’s last year to ride the little train, as she sat with her knees nearly touching her chin!

Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum

And finally, we paid a very special visit to Santa in his charming little house. I’ve taken the kids to countless Santas all around town throughout the years, and I’m telling you this: the Indiana State Museum Santa is THE BEST. You won’t find a more patient Santa in a lovelier setting anywhere else in central Indiana (and a sleigh full of reindeer better than the Santa that once dropped Eli twice in a row)!

The holidays are a busy time for all, with special events and obligations tugging us every which way. If you only make time for one activity this holiday season, consider making it a visit to Celebration Crossing. Whether you’re passing on a treasured tradition from your childhood onto your children, or simply starting a new one, you won’t be disappointed.

Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum

Celebration Crossing is open now through December 31, with Santa and Mrs. Claus entertaining guests through December 24. Find more details, including hours and the location of the Museum, on the Indiana State Museum’s website. Happy Holidays!

Whether you’re a fellow Midwesterner looking for fun places to visit in your own backyard or you’re traveling to our great region for the first time, you’ll find lots of ideas on my Pinterest board dedicated to Midwest Travel!

Follow Angie Six {just like the number}’s board Midwest Travel on Pinterest.

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