Santa Claus Visit

santa-girls-dec-10-2016Today was one of my favorite Christmas traditions that I do with the granddaughters.   We all bundled up in warm clothes, because of course our high today was only 32 degrees!   Then we piled in the car and headed out to go visit Santa and Mrs. Claus!!    

 

The cool part about our yearly visit to go see Santa, is that my granddaughters have been going to see the same Santa since they were 7 and 8 months old.   Each year we will track down where he is going to be and we make sure that we go see him.   There have been a couple of years in the past 10 that we have been doing this, that we almost missed him.   Thankfully, that hasn’t happened and we have pictures with the same Santa and same pose, since the girls were babies.   My youngest granddaughter is going to join in on the tradition this year, her mommy is taking her to see him next weekend.  20151219_101452   

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The couple that plays Santa and Mrs Clause also run a petting zoo here in town and they actually raise Reindeers.   We learned today on our visit, that Reindeer shed their antlers at least once a year.  When we went to visit today, the Reindeer they had with them had shed on of his antlers and only had one.    It was kind of cool, because the girls ended up getting an educational lesson on how they do this and why they shed them.   They wanted to know if it hurt them to lose the antler and Mrs Claus described it the girls, it was like them losing a tooth.   Apparently normally they will shed them in March, but because we have had such a warm November and December (prior to today of course), they  are shedding them early this year.

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When  you arrive to visit Santa, you will see his Reindeer along with the sled and of course Mrs. Clause..  It is a realistic and cool experience for the kids, instead of the traditional , Santa with a big chair kind of visit.    I don’t  think that the couple that does this make a lot of money so I believe that they do this for the sheer love of spreading Christmas cheer.  They do give you the opportunity to purchase pictures, but they don’t mandate that you buy from them.   They always pose for me when I have our camera or cell phone and it doesn’t matter to them if you purchase a picture from  them or not.   We have always purchased a picture package, simply because I want to support them and make sure that they continue to have Santa visits for kids to come in the future.   The pricing on their pictures is extremely reasonable, I only pay $7 for 2 5×7 pictures or you can pay $10 and get an 8×10 and 2, 5×7 pictures!   

 

I can remember those years when the girls were toddlers and were scared to death of the man in the beard and didn’t want to get in the sleigh and take the picture.   Yes, in case you are wondering, I do have a couple of the pictures where the girls were crying and just wanting down.   As the Nana , I was standing to the side encouraging them to visit and take a picture while Mommy would get in the sleigh with them to take the picture.   

If you live locally (Cookeville, TN) , you can go visit our Santa at Tractor Supply next weekend , Dec. 17th here in town.  

I am wondering , do you take your kids to see Santa?   Has it always been that perfect picture, or have you had our experience where the kids are just crying and screaming and wanting down?    Let me know in comments below what you do at Christmas time and Santa Pictures?

Holiday Traditions

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Holiday traditions are such an important part of families and so I thought I would share with you a little about one of my families.  

Years ago, when we first moved to Tennessee, we had moved away from all our family, so I had to come up with some new traditions to do with my kids.   Prior to moving, we had always gone and did things at different family members.  I have to say although I miss my family dearly, I do love the new traditions that I do with my children and now my grandchildren.  

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One of our favorite things is I bake a ton of cookies and candy.   I get the kids in the kitchen with me and they help bake 3-4 different types of cookies (chocolate chip, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, etc) and a couple of different candies.   Once we are done baking, then we spend another 2 days decorating all the sugar cookies.    If we had friends stop by, or the kids had friends over, then we everybody was included in our sugar cookie decorating extravaganza.   I can remember many years where we had frosting flying everywhere!!    Once all the cookies are decorated ,  I put plates together filled with all the goodies we have spent days baking and decorating.  We then dig out the Santa Hats, bundle the kids up and I’ll send them out to each of the neighbor’s houses with the plates of cookies in hand.    It started out with just the 2 in back of me and both neighbors on each side of me.   As the kids got older, they started adding houses, so that now, I do about 8 -10 houses.  At one point, my daughter Tiffany asked if they could sing Christmas Carols when they went and delivered the cookies.  I of course, told her yes, you guys decide which songs you want to sing, and then when they answer the door, you can sing to them.  during that  We  have lived in our home for 16 years,  and we have been doing the cookie / candy plates for about the last 14-15 years!!    I never realized until a couple years ago , that my neighbors have come to love those plates of cookies.  One of my neighbors daughters, that has since grown up and moved away from home, texted me and asked if I was doing my traditional plate of cookies and if she was still going to get some,even though she had moved off the block?    I was so touched by that simple little text!   Of course, my answer to her was  yes, and  I now make sure to make an extra plate for her.   My kids are almost all grown now, but I have 2 granddaughters that now continue the tradition wth me.   Although, I have to say that my older daughters, still come and help decorate and give out the plates of cookies.   My middle daughter Tiffany is my BEST cookie decorator, so there is no way I am letting her off the hook!!  Mama needs her!!

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I am curious, what is YOUR family tradition?   Do you bake with you mom/ grandma?   Or do you have another Holiday tradition you would like to share?   Please leave me a comment below and let me know, as I love hearing from my readers!!

I thought I would share some of my Cookie Recipes here with you ,  I hope you enjoy them!    Let me know if you have some favorites that you use?   I would be happy to see if there are any I can add to my own!

SOUR CREAM SUGAR COOKIES

With Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. Cream together 1 1/2 cups white sugar, butter or margarine, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs. Add sour cream.
  2. Mix together 5 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually add to the egg-sugar mixture.
  3. Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet for 10 – 12 minutes.
  6. To Make Frosting: In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat together the softened cream cheese and evaporated milk until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/8 teaspoon salt and confectioners’ sugar. Beat until well blended. Color as desired and frost cooled cookies

CROCKPOT CANDY

(16 oz.) dry roasted, unsalted peanuts  1 jar(s)
(16 oz.) dry roasted, salted peanuts   1 jar(s)
1 pkg  (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz  sweetened german chocolate (green packaging), broken into pieces
3 lb (two 24 oz. pkgs.) white almond bark, broken into pieces

there are several different brands, you’ll just have to use the brand found in your area. manufacturer’s have lowered the ounces in some packaging, so use the equivlaent of 3 lbs.


Put ingredients into a 4 or 5-quart crockpot in EXACT order as listed. Cover and cook on LOWEST setting [on your appliance] for 3 hours. DO NOT remove lid! Turn off and allow to cool slightly. Mixture will not be melted but will be soft. Mix thoroughly and drop by teaspoon size cookie dropper or a teaspoon onto wax paper. Let cool thoroughly. Makes approximately 150 – 170 pieces, depending, of course, on how large you make the pieces…

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, softened
    DO NOT use Butter!   Your cookies will be thicker and fluffy if you use margarine.
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 

 

 

Elf on the Shelf ideas

 

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Well it is almost time for our little Elf to come visit the Brandon household again. I have to admit, I am probably more excited than the kids are!! I have such fun with her! My two granddaughters named her Gingerbread when she arrived at our home. She was quite mischevious last year, she roasted marshmallows over my favorite candle, got herself caught up in ribbon in our tree, made a snowman out of marshamllows, played tic tac toe , I even found her reading her bible one morning.

This Christmas will be our  2nd year with Gingerbread.  I am so excited I get to play each night and set her up with all her little mischievous comings and goings. I have been doing some researching on what we will be doing with our Elf this year, and I have included those below for you. I will be creating our return letter for Gingerbread this week… that she will be bringing to our home when she arrives on Friday , the 25th.

Please look below for some cool ideas that I have found and we will be doing this year. (some Gingerbread did last year)

What is your favorite thing to do with your Elf?  Which of the pictures I have shared are your favorites?   I love hearing from y’all, so be sure to comment below!!

HAVE A GOOD DAY AT SCHOOL.     Great way to send your little one off to school for the day

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SCAVENGER HUNT Anybody?     Hide candy canes and get kids in on the fun!

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WORK OUT…..I think this Elf may have had too many calories and needs to do a workout and burn them off!!

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ROASTING MARSHMALLOWS…….Who doesn’t love Roasted Marshmallows??

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Here are some other ideas that I have found that will help you in setting up your Elf for their mischief.
https://www.elfontheshelf.com/ideas-scout-elves

https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/genius-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas?utm_term=.sk2QGwzBBB#.uvV1n2V999

 

 

 

Brand New Clothing Line Inspired by Kidz Bop

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I was compensated for this post.***
Crazy 8 Sale On Now!
Have you heard that Crazy8 has a new clothes line out now, that is inspired by KIDZ BOP? They have the cutest styles in this new Limited Edition Collection of kids clothes! These looks were designed by Crazy 8 , and they got their inspiration from all the KIDZ BOP KIDS: Matt, Grant, Sela and Ashlyn!.

My girls are ages 9 and 10 and are in love with this new line of clothes and can’t wait to show them off at school! They are super excited that they can now have clothes like the kids in KIDZ BOP!! I love the brand because it is good clean music that I feel good about them listening to, so having them wear this Exclusive line of clothes by Crazy 8 makes this Nana feel good about purchasing them!

The Toddler sizes range from 6 months to 5 yrs and then bigger kids sizes are from 4-14.

Crazy8 is offering some amazing deals right now, be sure to check out the FREE SHIPPING on orders $75 and up!!

Head on over there now and make your kids as happy as mine!    Great buys for your Christmas Shopping going on today!!

Halloween Costumes..Homemade vs Store Bought

 

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As Halloween approaches us this year, I am sitting here wondering…..how many people do a home made costume for the kids, how many do a store bought Costume and how many do one , somewhere in between?  You know what I mean, where you put the black shirt on them, and some leggings, buy  a cat tail and ears, and call them a cat.    Those are some of the cutest costumes I see!!  In fact, we did something similar to that last year with our granddaughter!

In our family, I can only remember one year that my kids had a store bought costume, and that was the year that I had surgeries.  Other than that, we almost always made the costumes from scratch, or some years we had most of it we made, and then we would buy some accessories.  I would always buy the face paint, and accessories the year before when they go on clearance on Nov. 1st, and put it in a box for the following year.   That is how we figured out what we were doing for costumes at Halloween.  I would pull out the box and we would put something together.   For the most part, we started doing them homemade, because store bought costumes are so ridiculously priced!   We simply couldn’t afford to buy costumes, and it was cheaper to throw something together from whatever we had around the house or I could find at a thrift store.   To me it is crazy to go spend $20-30 for a costume your child wears for one night!!

My kids have been everything from a Biker Chick, to a 70’s Hippie to  Football Players and I think we even had an Angel costume in there somewhere over the years.    The funny part is I ask my kids some of their costumes and now they don’t remember.    I don’t know about you, but I always stressed, was it cute enough or “perfect” enough when putting them together?   Now I realize, many years later, it must have been just fine, because they don’t have any memories that we had an “awful” costume over the years

I noticed that as my oldest started having her girls, she followed in her mama’s footsteps and she has made her  girl’s costumes each year.  I have to say she  has been very creative over the years.   She has made them into little princesses, clown, a witch, farmer girls, etc.   This year I am super excited to see the final costume.   She is still in the process of putting it together as I sit here tonight and write this.   The girls are only a year apart in age, they are 9 and 10.    The youngest one is going to be the Queen of Hearts and her big sister is going to be Alice In Wonderland. The costumes are so darn cute right now, I can’t wait until later this week, when they attend the first of the Halloween functions that we have planned for them this year!!   The bad part about these costumes this year, is I think we have spent twice the amount we would have spent, had we just bought them store bought costumes!!

So on to one of our dilemmas this year, which is what prompted this post.    My youngest daughter has a brand new baby who is almost 6 months old and of course, the apple of her mommy and daddy’s eye!!   Her daddy wants her to be Scooby Doo, and so mommy bought the Scooby Doo costume.  halloween-serenity-2016  But her mommy, wants her to be something more girly, and to be honest, so do I !    The great thing about the part of the country we live in, she will more than likely go out and about “trick or treating” more than one night.   We already have at least 2 nights planned.    There are churches and various community activities that go on at this time of year, and then of course the “Big Night”, the 31st!   So the other costume we are thinking about for the baby, is going to be made with stuff that Nana has around the house.   We are going to put some red/black tulle together and put her in a red bodysuit , glue some black dots on it , put a headband together with little balls on it for the antenna’s , and make her into a Ladybug!!   I am betting it is going to be one of the cutest ones we have done!!

Here is my question to my followers and those that read my blog post………….Do you make your Halloween Costumes?  Or do you buy them from the store, already made?   I think that either way is fine, because in the end, it is all about the kids going out and having fun that night, doing family activities, and of course, the best part of the night……..getting tons of candy!   I of course, am that parent that waits until I tuck little exhausted kids into bed, and then raid the best candy from the trick or treat bags!

I am curious though, how many people buy their costumes already made?  How many make them homemade?    Please comment below and tell me which you do?   Maybe it is a combination of the 2 , depending on what is going on in life that year.

Either way, I want to wish y’all a Happy Halloween!!

A collection of some of the costumes my daughter has put together for her girls….
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Dentalcheck up

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So I know that a visit to the dentist and having a “good” report is not all that exciting to most people, but I have to explain a little as to why we are super excited here in my home!   Ok, so maybe I am the one super excited!!

I have had my  2 granddaughters living with me for about 1 1/2 years now.  When they first came to live with me, they hadn’t been to a dentist since they were little, they are now 9 and 10.   When I got them, I made several appointments, and of course the dentist was one of them.   Needless to say, that was NOT an appointment that we got any good news at.    The youngest one had so much work that needed to be done, she was referred out to a Pediatric Dentist, so they could give her some laughing gas and get her work done in just 2 or 3 visits.   The older one had a lot of appointments and cavities to have filled, but it wasn’t as intense.  That was August of last year.  laughing-gas

Even after insurance, I spent hundreds of dollars getting their teeth fixed.  We then were all set to wait until the semi annual cleaning in 6 months.  So our first time on that 6 month visit, we ended up with multiple cavities for both girls.  But we were hopeful for the next visit and at that time, were still getting into the routine of regular teeth brushing, etc.

We have been working diligently since I have had them on proper care of their teeth.   I make sure they don’t have a ton of sweets each day and of course they brush twice a day on a regular basis.   Well, let me re word that, I tell them to brush them in the morning before school,  but to be honest, we are like any other family with kids that we are rushing to try and get out the door for school in the morning.  They probably brush for about 10 seconds and play the other 3 minutes, instead of brushing good.  The other problem we seem to be having is learning how to floss and doing that on a regular basis.   I know it is a matter of creating a new habit, albeit a good one, but that really seems to be a struggle for them.   So , when the 6 month check up was coming up , I had been getting a little nervous.  I was willing to bet we had a few cavities.     I was happily surprised to find out that NO….WE HAD ZERO CAVITIES this visit!!!  I can not tell you how HAPPY I was to hear that news!    You see to me, it meant that we were finally on the right path!

There has been so many changes in these girls lives this past 2 years, but this was a positive one!!   We did get news that the youngest granddaughter will be getting braces, so that will be our next challenge.  Learning how to take care of her teeth while having braces on.   I have no doubts that she will do just fine though.

 

Emotional Days

We had a good day, although it was an emotional and busy one. It started out with the girls (granddaughters) going to their first counseling appointment. This is something that they have needed to have in place for about 6 months, but just wasn’t possible until recently.

I am very blessed to have found a wonderful woman that the girls instantly “clicked” with. I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for the reaction that I saw in the youngest granddaughter, Natalie. I knew that Angela was going to find it easy to talk with a counselor, and I thought that Natalie would just follow along. However, what I saw today after our initial “meet and greet” with the counselor was a little girl who was all of sudden faced with the fact that she might have to deal with some of the feelings that she has been burying down deep. Because of her age, she doesn’t know how to verbally express that, so instead, those emotions and fears come out in her behavior. She has always been the happy child, that is always smiling and doesn’t let you know that she is upset by anything. However, what I saw today after our counseling appointment was a little girl that was crying at the drop of a hat and being extremely combative . She is hurt, mad and confused. It breaks my heart to watch them go through this, and all I can do is love on them and pray.

Her sister, Angela, is the child who “wears her heart on her sleeve”. She has no problem verbalizing what is going on and how she feels about things. They are very much like a lot of sisters, total opposites. I am thankful that both of them have begun the process of starting to sort through all the feelings and emotions over how their life has changed this past year. I pray that God gives me the words and wisdom to help guide them, to help them become the beautiful , healthy strong young women that I know they will be.
After our emotional morning, I decided it was time to go have a little pampering time, so off to the Nail Salon we went. They both got to pick out a Nail design they wanted . I loved the design that Natalie picked, although I have to say, it was a challenge for our Nail Tech to get it on her tiny little toes. Once again, total opposites. Natalie had her toes done and Angela had her nails painted.

GIRLS NAILS
GIRLS Nails and toes

GIRLS NAILS

We rounded off our day with their Softball game, which we WON! It was only the second game of the season that they have won, so it was a great end to a busy Saturday!
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(Note: Original post written April 24,2016)

Grandparents raising grandbabies

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I look around my life and I find that there are so many people that I know that are grandparents and they are raising their grandchildren.  Where are the parents?   Sadly, this is the world that we live in, we see more and more families with this situation.  I never thought in a million years, that I would be joining the ranks of this group of grandparents, but here I am.

I have 2 beautiful grand daughters, ages 8 and 9 that I love with all my heart. I have been in their lives since the day they were born, in fact my husband (Papa) cut the youngest ones umbilical cord.  They were at my house as much, if not more, than they were in their own homes.  You see, they lived right behind me in an apartment that my husband and I own until last spring.  My daughter decided to move and shortly after that , the girls came to live with me.

I have 3 children, the girls’ mom (31 yrs old), a daughter (19 yrs old) and my son (16). I have basically raised all my children and now I feel as though I am starting over.  With the situation the way it is with my oldest daughter, I wouldn’t have the girls anywhere else, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy by any means! I just don’t have the energy I had when I was younger and raising my own children.  I became disabled several years ago, and due to that I just don’t have the physical ability to do things with my grandchildren that I would like to do.  Since I am the parent at this stage in their life, it does require things like doing homework, bath time, school functions, sports, etc.  All of those activities, take a toll on my husband and I physically, emotionally and financially.  I mean something as simple as getting dinner on the table, doing homework, making sure they are brushing their teeth and taking showers, and then bedtime prayers, wears me out!  I am not old by any means, but I am not a spring chicken anymore either.

I admit, I find myself getting mad or frustrated because while I want to be the grandparent that spoils them , fills them with sugar and sends them home, I don’t get to do fun stuff like that.  Instead, I have to be the disciplinarian in their lives, and teach them the life skills that a parent should be teaching them. There are challenges involved with the girls , simply because of their emotional state of mind.  I found that on days they are missing their mom really bad, they each react in their own different ways.  While one of the girls gets sassy and starts acting out, the other one seems to internalize it and gets emotional and clingy.  I have sat them both down and talked with them, telling them instead of “acting out” and getting into trouble, to come talk to me. I have given them both journals , so they can write their “feelings” down.  However, they are 8 and 9, and they just don’t know how to handle the emotions they are feeling. Prior to coming to live with me, their mom was a single mom for most of their lives.  Their dad has been in and out of their lives since the day they were born.  So, when they are missing somebody, it is always mom.  All I can do is pray over them and be the best parent I know how to be.

I am hoping by writing this post there will be other grandparents out there that are in the same shoes as me, to at the very least know that they aren’t alone.  In fact, I looked up some statistics and I found some shocking numbers. In 2010 about 1 in 14 children in the US lived in a household headed by a grandparent, 7% of the children in the US.   According to the articles I have read on this subject, that is approx. 4.9 million children.  About 920,000 children were living in a grandparents home without one of their parents. How crazy is that statistic!?

I said it before and I will say it again, I LOVE my granddaughters with all my heart and I am so thankful that God has placed them in my home, so I know that they are safe and have a stable home.  I hope that as the girls grow up, they know that their Papa and I have done the best job we know in raising them.   I pray constantly and hourly for my oldest daughter that she will “wake up” and realize that her girls need her more and more with each passing day.    I hope that one day, I will get to be that Nana that spoils the heck out of them and sends them home to their mom, in a loving and stable home.   I hope that in some way, I have opened my readers eyes to the joys and tribulations to Grandparents raising grandchildren.

Reference Articles:

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2012/US-children-grandparents.aspx

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/grandparenting/info-12-2010/more_grandparents_raising_grandchildren.html