Page 1

November/December 2008



Cover Photo


Dreaming of

a Green Christmas

A Gift in

Every Jar

Holidays for

Divorced Parents Residential Customer Allen, TX


Table of Contents

November/December 2008 - Issue 6

Features 5 Make a Gingerbread House and Make a Memory 10 Dreaming of a Green Christmas Make your holiday celebrations more


12 A Gift in Every Jar 20 Holidays for Divorced Parents 22 What to Teach Your Kids About Credit On the Cover:


Make a Gingerbread House and Make a Memory


A Gift in Every Jar

Finley is a happy 17 month old who loves puppy dogs and books.

Cover Photo: Michael Rivera

Publisher/Editor: Vanessa Ximenez

Art Director: Marlina Rahman


Holidays for Divorced Parents


Michael Rivera

Contributing Writers: Janet Groene Jodi Helmer Heidi Smith Luedtke Marcia Lynne Belinda Mooney Diane O'Neil Brette Sember Martha Wegner

North Texas Magazines, Inc. 972.547.6261

Allen Family Magazine is a product of North Texas Magazines, Inc.

Copyright 2007, exclusive of proprietary ads and artwork designs. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced in whole or in part by any means without prior written permission from the publisher. Placement of advertising is not a personal endorsement by the publisher or its representatives, and no liability arising therefrom is assumed.


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

The Williams Family

Discover Drs. Jeff and Steve Williams and their special brand of quality care at Allen Dental Center. We use only the highest-quality dental products and services, and we will strive to provide you the level of treatment and comfort we would want for our own family.

972-727-3941 300 W. Boyd Drive Allen, Texas (Next door to the Allen Post Office)

Cosmetic Dentistry • General Family Dentistry • Sedation Dentistry

Publisher’s Note It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And with that being said, it’s time to begin preparations for all this season brings – baking, parties, decorating, shopping, and a little time for reflection. However, this year may be a little different than previous years regarding finances and budget. While there may not be as much disposable income, you can still have the best holiday season ever! On page 12, read about Gifts in a Jar. Rather than buying the typical tie or perfume, you can create gifts that are not only perfectly packaged, but also delicious. With gifts in a jar, simple ingredients and a few instructions will provide a unique present that is sure to be a big hit. In addition, the whole family can take part in the preparations. And speaking of fun for the entire family, on page 5, read about Making a Gingerbread House with your kids and making lots of exciting memories. Whether your children choose to create a traditional house or plan for something off-the-wall, they are creating memories that will last a lifetime and traditions they’ll pass onto their children. Finally, if you are a divorced parent and will be coordinating a holiday schedule with your ex-spouse, on page 20, read about simple strategies to ensure happy holidays for everyone involved, especially your children. Happy Holidays!

Vanessa Ximenez

2009 AFM Cover Photo Contest Photo Submission Guidelines:

▪ Send or drop photos to:

North Texas Magazines, Inc. 808 S. College Street, Suite 112 McKinney, TX 75069

▪ Include name, age, and phone number on the back of each photo.

▪ Kids must be residents of Allen area and between the ages of newborn - 16 years.

▪ Photos must be received by

December 10, 2008 and will not be returned.

▪ One photo per child. ▪ Cover winner will receive a free

professional photo shoot and will appear on the front cover of the january issue. 4

Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

Make a Gingerbread House and Make a Memory By Belinda Mooney

The holiday season is all about making memories with our families. And there is no better way to do that than spending time together making gingerbread houses. Not only do you get to spend time with your kids but you have a work of art when you are done. Included here are two recipes - one for those of us who are short on time or have very young children. Graham crackers make wonderful prefabricated gingerbread walls. The other is for those who want to go the whole route, from start to dazzling finish. Keep in mind you can use any candies or decorations you want. Those listed are suggestions.

Easy Gingerbread Cottages by Nestle© Supplies: • A sturdy piece of cardboard or a wood board, approximately 12 inches x 12 inches • Wrapping paper to cover board (optional) • Double-sided cellophane tape • Cellophane tape • 1 pint milk carton, emptied

• • • •

1 box of 2 1/2 inches x 5 inches graham crackers 1 16-oz can of pre-made frosting. White for snow and any accent color you choose. 1 14-oz. bag of flaked or shredded coconut A variety of NESTLÉ Candy. We suggest: NESTLÉ JINGLES, SPREE Candy Canes, Mini Chewy SWEETARTS in Holiday Dispensers, Giant SWEETARTS, SNO-CAPS, WONKA GOBSTOPPERS, WONKA NERDS Ropes.

Instructions • Empty contents of carton and tape carton opening shut. • Cover the cardboard or wooden base with wrapping paper (Optional). • Secure carton to base with double-sided tape. • For the sides of the cottage, carefully break 4 graham cracker sheets, along the scored line, into fourths, for a total of 12 pieces. Set aside. • For the roof of the cottage, break each graham cracker sheet in half along the scored line for a total of 2 pieces, one for each side of the roof. Set aside. • Now frost the entire carton. Place 3 of the smaller graham cracker pieces, horizontally, onto each side. Place 2 of the larger graham cracker pieces on each side of the top of the carton, to create the roof. November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


• • •

Using the frosting as “glue”, place SNO-CAPS in rows to create snow covered roof shingles. Wrap the NERDS Rope around the edges of the side of the carton and secure with frosting. Place 3 red Mini Chewy SPREE in the center above the NERDS Rope. Repeat on other side of cottage. For the front of the cottage, use 5 green Mini Chewy SPREE to create a round wreath below the center of the NERDS Rope. Break off 2 rounded ends of unwrapped SPREE Candy Canes and put them together to create a horse shoe shape for the front door. Unwrap SPREE Candy Canes and break them into 2-3/4” lengths. You will need four of these pieces. With frosting, glue one SPREE Candy Cane piece under the roof and one at the base of the cottage on both sides (the sides which do not have the NERDS ROPE decoration). Secure 2 to 3 red Mini Chewy SPREE to each side to represent windows.

Now it’s time for the landscaping: • Frost the board. • Using green foil wrapped NESTLÉ JINGLES, use frosting and “glue” one on top of the other to create trees. • Make a colorful “cobblestone” walkway using Mini Chewy SWEETARTS kept in place with the frosting. • Break unwrapped SPREE Candy Canes into 1” pieces to line the walkway. Use 3 to 4 pieces on each side. • If desired, line the edges of the cardboard base with NERDS Rope.

Sprinkle some shredded coconut “snow” around and your cottage is ready for visitors!

Traditional Gingerbread House This traditional gingerbread house is courtesy of Del Lago Resort’s Executive Chef Mike Wallace. Before you get started, use cardboard or heavy poster board to draw out your templates. Test by taping the pieces together. If the cardboard house stands, it is a safe bet that your gingerbread house will too. • Roof - Two rectangles (11” X 7”) • Side walls - Two rectangles (5”X 8”) • Front and back walls - (Base 5”, total height 9”) Dough ingredients: • 1 cup soft butter • 1 - 3/4 cup brown sugar • 1-1/4 cup white sugar • 2 tablespoons molasses • 6 eggs • 6 cup all-purpose flour

• • • • •

2 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon ginger 1 tablespoon cinnamon 3/4 tablespoon allspice 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions: 1. pray non-stick spray onto baking sheets and pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. 2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Beat in the molasses and eggs.

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November/December 2008

3. In another bowl, sift dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry mixture to the molasses mixture and knead into a smooth ball. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 4. On a floured surface, roll out some of the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use the templates to cut into desired shapes and place on baking sheet. 5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Place on racks to let cool completely. Icing Ingredients: • 3 large egg whites, room temperature • 4 3/4 cup powdered sugar • 1/2 teaspon cream of tartar Directions: 1. Place egg whites in bowl. Add cream of tartar. 2. Sift sugar directly onto egg whites. Beat four minutes with electric mixer on high speed. The mixture will thicken as you beat it and when finished should be the consistency of mashed potatoes. 3. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over icing while using to prevent air from drying it. If icing becomes too firm, simply beat a little water into it. Decorating: 1. Place the icing in a pastry bag and generously squeeze it in a 90 degree angle along your base. Place one side wall and the back wall in the icing and hold till it sets (approx. 15 minutes). Repeat with remaining walls.

2. Let the walls set for at least 30 minutes before attaching the roof. 3. Use the extra dough for chimneys, windows, doors, etc. 4. Stained glass windows can be made from crushed hard candies. In the unbaked dough, cut the window hole and sprinkle in the candy pieces. Bake the candy chips with the gingerbread house to create a stained glass effect. 5. When house is thoroughly dry, any and all types of candies can be used for decoration. Just let your imagination run wild. Use the remaining icing to attach the candy decorations. NOTE: The icing is not for eating, it contains raw eggs. Belinda Mooney is a freelance writer mainly focusing on parenting and family issues.

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406 West Main Street • Allen, Texas 75013 November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


Ideal Family Getaway Real mountains, luxury cabins and a family getaway are 2.5 hours away from Allen, TX. - By Marcia Lynne

Just one of the many affordable and luxuriously appointed cabins available for a weekend getaway in McCurtain County, OK.

Couples will find the secluded cabins in the tower pines of McCurtain County, OK. the ideal romantic getaway.

Just across the Oklahoma border and a short 2.5 hour drive from Allen, Texas is a family getaway few people know about in North Texas. For my family, it’s our weekend home away from home. Typically, my two kids (Tyler, 12 and Emma, 9) are glued to the TV, a video game or the family computer. As an active mom, I’m always looking for a way to stay connected with my husband and children, without connecting to an electrical outlet.

The fall foliage and changing colors in McCurtain County, OK. are among the country’s best - just a short drive northeast of Allen, TX.

In today’s tough economic times, we love the idea of an affordable “staycation” that’s less than a gas tank away. Located in the Kiamichi Mountains, your family just won’t believe that a place so wonderful and beautiful is so close to home. A couple of restaurants you will want to check out are Steven’s Gap Restaurant, Highway 259 North, Broken Bow, OK 580-484-6350 and a little more upscale Abendigo’s in Hochatown, OK 580-494-7222.

A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested I travel northward to McCurtain County, Oklahoma… to the Beavers Bend State Park and Broken Bow Lake area located in Southeast Oklahoma.

As for a wonderful cabin, your family will enjoy staying in the OKeHI cabin rented by The Cabins in Broken Bow 580-212-3555.

On that advice, we went… and we fell in love with the entire county. There are quaint little towns like Idabel, Broken Bow, Valliant and Hochatown that offer shopping, great restaurants, museums, water activities, hiking, biking…. you name it. McCurtain County offers something for the entire family – both outdoors and indoors. Thankfully, it is everything the mall and typical family getaway isn’t.

For more information on McCurtain County, Oklahoma, visit

Marcia’s top 15 free family activities in McCurtain County: Outdoor


Family Activities

Since that time, we’ve made it a point to visit once or twice a year. Adding to the attraction and allure of McCurtain County are their “Indian Summers.” Due to the foliage and soil content, McCurtain County stays “green” deep into the fall. But when fall does hit usually around the second week in November… it is a county-wide splash of showing fall foliage that is second to none.

1. Bald Eagle watching along the sheer cliffs of Mountain Fork River

1. View Indian Artifacts at the Indian Memorial Museum

1. Watch a live radio show on Broadway Street in Broken Bow

2. Visit Oklahoma’s oldest standing church, Wheelock Church

2. Feed goats at Honey Bear Ranch

Being a creature of comfort, I was thrilled to learn that McCurtain County features a wide variety of lodging – ranging from the small and rustic cabins, to a lodge overlooking the lake, to motels and large and luxurious cabins in the deep pines. You’ll find clean, comfortable cabins with spacious rooms, big beds, brand new and clean showers and hot tubs. Thanks to my wonderful husband, who is willing to watch our children, I’ve been able to plan a few “girls weekends” with a few friends. We leave our “mom” duties at home, rent a great cabin, visit the local winery and take a break from the routine.

2. Pet a snake at the Beavers Bend Nature Center 3. Scenic wildlife viewing drive in the Ouachita National Forest

3. See a dinosaur at the Museum of the Red River

4. Family hiking along the David Boren Trail at Beavers Bend

4. Tour the majestic Barnes-Stevenson House

5. Picnic under the cypress trees along the Mountain Fork River

5. Tour Waterfall Creek Pecan Farm in Idabel

My husband and I were married on Valentine’s Day. We’ve found the winter months of January and February in McCurtain County to be the ideal place for that fireplace-romantic-husband-and-wife weekend.


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

3. Watch chainsaw sculpting at Hochatown Junction Station 4. Make arts and crafts at Beavers Bend Nature Center 5. Listen to campfire stories at Beavers Bend Nature Center

Marcia Lynne is a free-lance travel writer based in the DFW area.

Dreaming of

a Green Christmas

Make your holiday celebrations more eco-friendly By Jodi Helmer

Order LED holiday lights Turn your home into one of the most festive and eco-friendly on the block with LED holiday lights. Most retailers stock energy-efficient holiday lights made with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, that are 90 percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights and last longer – up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for incandescent bulbs.

Put your holiday lights on timers Leaving your holiday lights turned on 24 hours a day will quadruple your energy costs - and create four times the pollution – as leaving them on for six hours. Set your timer to turn the lights on at dusk and leave them on until you go to bed. You’ll be able to enjoy the lights all evening without burning energy overnight.

Make plans to carpool to a Christmas party or holiday church services Call family and friends and suggest going to a Christmas party together, instead of driving separately. Or, call an elderly member of your church and offer to pick her up for holiday services. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint and help spread the spirit of the season.

Decorate with natural materials You can make beautiful holiday decorations with items found in na-

‘Tis the season to be kind to the environment. Instead of faux Christmas trees, energydraining light displays and gifts wrapped in eight layers of paper, celebrate the season by making a few eco-friendly changes to your holiday celebrations.

ture: A bowl of evergreen boughs and fresh fruit, a basket filled with fallen branches, winter berries and pinecones and seasonal plants like poinsettias make inexpensive holiday décor. Once the holidays are over, your decorations can be added to the compost pile.

Use eco-friendly packing materials to mail gifts Mail your holiday gifts in boxes padded with recycled newspaper or the leftover paper in your shredder. You can also use real peanuts and include a note asking the recipient to feed them to the squirrels

Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips for a green Christmas.

once the box is unpacked. These green materials will protect your packages just as well as bubble wrap or Styrofoam but have none

Go online to check the proofs of your holiday card photos

of the negative impacts on the environment. Styrofoam accounts for

Sending cards with family photos is a great way to spread

Styrofoam releases over 90 different toxins including dioxin, a

holiday cheer – and much more personal than store-bought cards.

known carcinogen.

up to 25 percent of the waste in our landfills. When it’s burned,

Instead of having the store print a copy of your photo proof, check it online. Proofing your holiday greetings electronically will

Buy a cut Christmas tree

help cut down on the use of chemical inks and heavy-duty photo

Nearly all cut Christmas trees were grown on tree farms, which

paper. Once you’ve picked the photo for your holiday cards, only

means that their stock is replenished yearly and forests aren’t

order as many cards as you plan to send to eliminate waste.

depleted. Cut trees are a much greener choice than artificial trees


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

that are made with petroleum-based materials and often shipped thousands of miles before they reach your living room. Unlike artificial trees, which eventually end up in the landfill, cut trees can be recycled after the holidays.

Create a homemade garland for the Christmas tree An old-fashioned string of popcorn and cranberries will look great on your tree. Once the holidays are over, you can hang the garland in an evergreen tree in your backyard and let the birds feast on your

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creation. An added bonus: It’s a great afternoon craft project for the entire family!

Shop for holiday gifts that don’t require batteries

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Nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holidays. Eventually, worn out batteries end up in the landfill where they leach toxic metals into the soil and groundwater. You can help keep batteries from going to the landfill by choosing holiday gifts that don’t require batteries. If you do buy gifts that require batteries, give rechargeable batteries.

Wrap presents in gift bags Once you tear the wrapping paper off of a holiday gift, it ends up in the recycle bin but gift bags can be used over and over again. Look for gift bags made with recycled content or purchase plain paper bags and decorate them yourself with recycled holiday cards. If every family in the U.S. reused two feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon – enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.

Recycle your Christmas tree After the holidays are over, don’t put your Christmas tree at the curb. Instead of taking up space in the landfill, trees can be ground into woodchips and used to mulch your garden or prevent erosion at a local watershed. Go to and enter your zip code to find out where to have your Christmas tree recycled.

Jodi Helmer is the author of The Green Year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference (Alpha, 2008). Visit her online at

November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


A Gift in Every Jar By Martha Wegner

Every year around this time I ask myself the same question: “What to give Great Aunt Edith for Christmas?” Not to mention the question of what to give the next-door-neighbor, my daughter’s piano teacher, and our babysitter, who is celebrating Hanukkah. Somehow, buying another tree ornament, box of candy, or gift certificate seems just a little boring

made cookies for the family is already halfway done. Finally,

and uninspired.

eaten, and asked for the recipe! Christine’s piano teacher told her

this is a project that the giver, your child, can really involve him/ herself with. My children, ages 10 and 14, and I had a great time creating these gift jars. After realizing that these gift jars would be great for not only neighbors, but also tutors, babysitters, teachers, and great Aunt Edith, we knew we would be making lots of them. So we formed an assembly line filled with brown sugar, flour, candies, and cocoa, and baking soda. What could be more fun? And the response? David’s karate instructor said these were the best cookies (the M & M cookies, recipe to follow) he had ever that she didn’t want to make the cookies just yet - the jar was just

This year I am pleased to say I have discovered the perfect gift

too beautiful.

and it comes in a jar. Not too surprisingly, it is called a “gift jar”. Just what is a gift jar? It is a 1-quart glass jar (commonly referred

Here’s what you’ll need for each jar: the ingredients listed in the

to as a “Mason jar”) filled with ingredients for making cookies,

recipe, a 1-quart wide-mouth glass jar with a screw-on top, a 7 x

soups, or beverages. The jars are assembled in layers, making

7 inch piece of fabric, and a 48” length of twine or yarn or ribbon.

for a beautiful effect. Then the jar is screwed shut and decorated

Also, you will be making a tag for each jar which will supply the

with a square of fabric and a brightly colored ribbon. The recipient follows the instructions on the attached card, and soon he or she has a batch of home-baked treats, courtesy of her favorite student. The advantages? First, we all love to eat, and

name of the cookie recipe, and the list of ingredients that must be

these recipes yield treats that are indeed, very good to eat. Sec-

added to the mix (eggs and butter, for example), and the bak-

ond, for the person who is exhausted at the end of the day (and

ing instructions. The tag should be made from a piece of sturdy

aren’t we all?) it’s a delight to know that the job of making home-

paper on which you will write out (or print out) the instructions.


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

O.K., now you have the supplies, here’s what you do. Assemble the ingredients in each jar in the order specified. Do not change the order, it may spoil the effect. After pouring in each ingredient, be sure to press it down firmly to form an even layer. Before adding the next ingredient, wipe the inside of the jar with a dry paper towel, to keep the sides clean. After all the layers of the mix have been added, simply screw on the top of the jar. Center the chosen fabric square on the lid of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Then wrap your chosen tie around the rub-

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ber band twice and knot the tie to hold it in place. Using a hole punch, make a hole in the tag and slide it through the hole, tying it

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That’s it! You’re done. You’ve had fun, you and your child feel a sense of accomplishment, and you have a beautiful gift, a gift you will be proud to give. I’ve included 3 recipes that our family found to be both beautiful to look at and good to eat. One is for cookies, one is for brownies, and one is for some delicious breakfast muffins. There are countless recipes that you may wish to try; we’ve included some resources in the sidebar. A word of advice: if you are trying out a new recipe, make the recipe for yourself first. If the jar is beautiful, but the end results are not, everyone will feel disappointed. You want to be sure you're giving a gift that tastes as good as it looks.

M & M COOKIE MIX (adapted from a recipe at Jar Ingredients: • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

TLC Pediatrics, P.A. “Where Kids Come First”

• ½ tsp. baking soda • ½ tsp. salt • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon • ½ cup chopped walnuts • 1 cup M & M’s chocolate Mini Baking Bits, divided • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar • 1 ¼ cups uncooked quick oats Directions: In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Layer ingredients in this order, pressing firmly between each layer: flour mixture, walnuts, ½ cup M & M’s, brown sugar, remaining

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½ cup M & M’s, and oats. Secure the lid; decorate.

• Well Child Exams & Immunizations

Tag instructions:

• Sports & Camp Physicals

In addition to the contents of this jar, you will need to add the following ingredients:

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Allen Family Magazine


minutes until the edges are light brown in color. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars. Yield: 2 dozen brownies.

APRICOT-WALNUT MUFFINS (from “The Mason Jar Soup-to-Nuts Cookbook” by Lonnette Parks) Jar Ingredients: • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour • 1 cup oatmeal • ½ cup chopped dried apricots • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts • ½ cup brown sugar • 2 tsp. baking powder • ¼ tsp. baking soda • ¼ tsp. salt Layer the ingredients in this order: walnuts, apricots, brown sugar, oatmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and flour, pressing firmly between each layer. Secure the lid; decorate. Tag instructions: In addition to the contents of the jar, you will need to add the Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease cookie sheets; set aside. In large bowl beat butter, egg, and vanilla extract until well blended. Stir in contents of jar until well blended. Roll into 1” balls and place about 2” apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes. Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

SANDCASTLE BROWNIES MIX (from “The Mason Jar Cookie Cookbook” by Lonnette Parks)

following ingredients: • 1 cup milk • ¼ cup melted butter, slightly cooled • 1 egg, slightly beaten Preheat the oven to 375°. In large bowl, cream the milk, butter, and egg. Add the contents of the jar, and stir until just mixed. Do not overstir. Spoon the batter into greased or papered muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 10

Jar Ingredients:

minutes in the tin, remove, and cool completely.

• 2 ¼ cups sugar • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder • ½ cup chopped pecans • 1 tsp. baking powder • 1 tsp. salt

Yield: 12 muffins.

Looking for more recipes? Here are some great resources: • The Mason Jar Soup-to-Nuts Cookbook,

Layer the ingredients in this order: pecans, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking powder, and flour, pressing firmly between each layer. Secure the lid; decorate.

by Lonnette Parks, Square One Publishers, 2004. • The Mason Jar Cookie Cookbook, Lonnette Parks, Square One Publishers, 2002 • Gifts for the Cookie Jar:

Tag instructions:

Cookie Recipes for Ingredients in a Jar,

In addition to the contents of the jar, you will need to add the

Lia Wilson, Cookbook Resources, 2002

following ingredients: • ¾ cup butter, softened • 4 eggs

• From the “Creative Ladies Ministry”, this site has countless links to other sites featuring gift jar recipes.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream the butter and eggs. Add the contents of the jar, and stir until well mixed. Pour the batter into a greased 13 x 9” baking pan and bake for 20-25


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

Martha Wegner is a freelance writer whose work can be found at

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November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


“I Think I Can!”

Eight Ways to Encourage Optimism in Your Child by Heidi Smith Luedtke

Are you frustrated to hear your child mutter, “Why bother? I won’t make the team” or “It doesn’t matter. I can’t get an A”? Children today face enormous academic and social pressure, but an attitude of passive resignation isn’t healthy. Dr. Martin Seligman, lead researcher for the Pennsylvania Resiliency Project and author of “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life” describes three benefits of optimism you’ll want for your child: Better health, greater academic and extracurricular performance, and the motivation to keep trying when times are tough.

led to believe their earlier performance was not so good. These benefits are fueled by optimists’ tendency to give extra effort in challenging situations – optimists believe hard work pays off. While genetics play some role in determining kids’ attitudes, there is good evidence we can help kids look on the bright side more often. Seligman calls this “psychological immunization” against depression. Here are some strategies to help your child think and act optimistically in today’s pessimistic culture.

Practice Thought Watching. Learn to spot your child’s negative self-talk. Kids often express negative thoughts aloud: “My hair looks ugly,” or “I don’t have any friends.” Help your child reject unfavorable thoughts. Stop and discuss his internal dialogue. Encourage your child to police his thoughts for “bad beliefs” by acting as his very own thought cop.

Model optimistic self-talk. Optimists experience less physical distress in challenging situ-

Talk with your child (over breakfast, or on the way to school)

ations than pessimists and have stronger immune systems, ac-

about what might happen today. Perhaps you have an impor-

cording to 25 years of research conducted by Dr. Michael Scheier

tant meeting or are attending a playgroup together. Share your

and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University. Optimists live

excitement with your child. Say “I’ll have a chance to present my

longer and happier lives. In addition, optimists are achievers.

ideas,” or “I might make a new friend.” Don’t be afraid to men-

Studies show optimistic youth get higher grades and perform

tion coming events that concern you, but focus on potential joys,

better in athletic competition than pessimists, even when they are

rather than fears of the unknown.


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

Make a mantra. Remember The Little Engine That Could? He puffed faster and harder saying “I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can” until he succeeded. What phrase motivates your family in challenging times? Inject some humor and say your slogan together when times are tough (you’re climbing a big hill, walking a long way, or stuck in slow traffic). You’ll end up laughing about how silly you all look and show your child you’re in this together. Social support boosts optimism.

Take action. Try new things – even scary ones. Go someplace new. Cook and eat a new food for dinner. When you meet someone new, be the first to introduce yourself. Discuss with your child the benefits of openness to new experiences. If the new food tastes icky or the new park is less fun than the old one, focus on what you learned. Perhaps say, “Now we know how much we like the slide at our park,” or “Wow, that tasted yucky! But it will make us strong and healthy.”

Bright Side Books for Kids

Change your child’s explanations for adversity.


Even for optimists, things don’t always turn out great. What

• •

matters is how kids make sense of undesirable outcomes. Move from global, personal evaluations to more specific, situational ones. For instance, “I failed the test because I’m dumb and I’ll never be good at math” is pessimistic, but “I failed because I didn’t understand the problems and need more practice” allows active coping. To help your child make the switch, ask guiding questions, such as “What other explanations can you think of?” and “What can you do differently next time?”

Focus on improvement. Optimists know getting better is a process. Encourage your child to adopt this approach by commenting on his improvement, not just the outcome. Say “You really improved your sprint from the starting line” or “Your spelling has really improved since the rough draft” rather than focusing on his place in the contest or grade on the report. Follow progress visually using a simple chart. Then, when challenges arise you can point out how far he’s come and encourage persistence.

Be a skill-builder. Kids’ skills develop incrementally. Read a book or watch a video together that teaches a skill your child wants to develop. Encourage him to ask an expert for advice, if you know one. Practice the skill in a simple way then move up to bigger challenges. Reinforce the idea

When Pigs Fly (by Valerie Coulman, Lobster Press, 2003) Ralph, a determined cow who wants a bicycle triumphs over naysayers. The Little Engine that Could (by Watty Piper, Grosset & Dunlap, 1978) A little blue train climbs a towering mountain others won’t attempt to deliver toys to good children.

Ages 4-8 • •

Little Liam Eagle (by Nancy McGrath, BookSurge Publishing, 2008) A young eagle bravely soars past his fears with his parents’ encouragement. Stitches (by Kevin Morrison, Ambassador Books, 2003) Stitches, a baseball, dreams of the big leagues – but a stitching defect sends him down another path to his dreams.

Ages 9-12 • •

Because of Winn Dixie (by Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick, 2000) Ten-year-old Opal overcomes sadness and makes new and unusual friends because of a big, ugly dog named Winn Dixie. Dare to Dream! 25 Extraordinary Lives (by Sandra McLeod Humphreys, Prometheus Books, 2005) Biographical sketches of famous artists, athletes, thinkers and inventors inspire kids to persist in the face of adversity.

that your child can learn to do just about anything.

Recognize good when it happens.

An optimistic attitude encourages positive action.

Some emotion researchers believe we are genetically programmed

By encouraging an upbeat approach, you give your child the key

to pay more attention to bad news than good – learning from bad

to a healthier, happier, more productive life. Optimists’ dedicated,

news helps us survive dangerous situations. But focusing on what’s

persistent action can change the world for the better, and I believe

wrong diminishes all that is going right. Before bed, play the “three

our kids will do just that.

good things” game. Both you and your child list three good things that happened today and describe how you felt about them. You may be inspired to list three good things you anticipate tomorrow, too.

Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD is a psychologist and freelance writer from Alexandria, VA. You can find her blog on parenting and leadership at November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


The Right Canoe for Your Family By Janet Groene

Is this the year you’ll introduce your children to silent sports? It’s a safe bet they won’t miss their iPhones as they paddle into the outback. Skimming across shining lakes, through tangled mangrove forests and down hushed rivers, the world is your oyster.

Most canoes have single seats fore and aft, and that’s ideal for a parent and any child old enough to handle a paddle. (The adult can steer from the stern and also provide most of the thrust). Also available are canoes with seats for paddlers fore and aft plus a middle seat wide enough to hold two youngsters. A larger family is best outfitted with more than one canoe. First, ask yourself where you’ll store the canoe(s) at home and

How can you keep your family comfortable and safe?

General Canoe Types Canoes come in four basic categories. A cruising canoe is

how you’ll get them to the water. Don’t buy more canoe than you can manhandle off and on the roof rack of the SUV or store on a boat trailer in your yard (deed restrictions may apply). Here are things to consider when you’re shopping for a canoe.

sporty but efficient, ideal for a racing and mild whitewater. A recreation canoe is agile too but steadier for all-around family trips. You’ll need an expedition canoe for canoe camping and exploring all types of waters. It has more space for camping gear yet it’s reliable in many wave conditions. A touring canoe combines the qualities of all types, allowing you to carry a moderate amount of camping gear and still encounter a variety of paddling conditions. Special canoes are made for marathon, racing and whitewater conditions but let’s assume for now you want an all-around, family canoe for a few hours of easy paddling each day and enough space on board for a cooler and picnic basket.


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

About Materials Aluminum is tough and light. Polyethylene is strong, low cost and it “gives” up to a point if you ram something. Light, strong, most repairable and usually the most costly are composite canoes in which layers are built up out of high-tech materials such as Kevlar, fiberglass or Royalex. Wood or wood and canvas canoes are traditional, an excellent choice for a parent-child building project. They take a lifetime of maintenance but that’s part of the love affair with this timehonored choice. Sunlight is murder on wood finishes so it’s best if you can store a wooden canoe indoors.

A Canoe Glossary

a capsized vessel even though you’re in the water yourself.

• Caddy is a set of wheels placed under a canoe or kayak to

These lines are also handy for tucking in small items or maps.

wheel it around on land. If you get a folding caddy you can

Fittings should be strong, clean and low profile to prefer snags.

carry it on board, always prepared to haul up on a beach.

• Seats should have proper support for the back, legs and hips

• Car topper kits offered by the manufacturer of the canoe or

for long hours of paddling.

kayak offer the best fit for a secure ride.

• Rudders are available on some kayaks to aid maneuvering

• Chine refers to the place where topsides meet the hull.

and stability. They’re operated by foot pedals and can be

Little, soft or no chine means a rounded bottom. Hard chine

retracted in shallow water.

(pronounced shine) refers to a sharp angle.

• Skeg is a fin that drops down at the stern of a kayak to in

• Color. In cold weather paddling, dark colors absorb the sun’s

crease tracking ability. When it’s up, the kayak is more

heat better. A dark canoe also makes a better shelter if you

maneuverable. When it’s down, it’s easier to paddle a stready

camp under it in cold weather. Bright colors, especially yellow,


make you more visible in a rescue situation but can be glary on

• Skid plate is a reinforcement at the bow in case of a bow-on

the eyes on long, sunny voyages. Forest green or camouflage

crash. It can squelch performance but is a plus in rocky rapids.

blend better with the environment.

Order the plate from the boat manufacturer, who will supply the

• Depth is the distance from the top of the hull to the bottom of

best match for your boat.

the bilge. More depth in the center adds interior space plus

• Stability. Primary or initial stability refers to how steady the

stability. More depth at the bow means it will slice more

vessel rides when it’s upright. Secondary or final stability

sharply through waves and spray.

refers to its resistance to capsize. A wide hull may have very

• Draft refers to the amount of water required to float your boat,

good primary stability (for boarding, for example) but poor final

as in, “It draws XX inches” or “Its draft is XX inches.”

stability (such as when a passing boat throws you a big wake).

• Entry line is the term for the sharpness of the bow is as it

• Tandem means a two-person canoe or kayak with seats fore

enters the water. Some materials adapt better than others for

and aft. Canoes with three or more seats are also available.

shaping a sharp entry line, which in turn affects efficiency

• Thwarts are braces or bars that run crosswise. When weight

and tracking. • Flotation in modern canoes and kayaks is usually enough to keep them afloat even when filled with water. You can also add flotation bags to lighten the vessel further for whitewater use.

is distributed across the hull it’s said to be athwart. • Trim is balance bow to stern. You want the vessel to ride level, so you load it evenly (including the weight of your own body) to achieve this balance. Here’s where sliding seats come

• Freeboard is the amount of hull showing above the waterline.

in. Good trim is always important; in frisky winds and seas it’s

The heavier the load, the the less freeboard you have and the

especially important.

greater the chance of swamping.

• Tumblehome refers to the curve of a canoe hull as it comes

• Knee pads allow paddlers to spend long hours on their knees,

back in at the gunnels. It determines how far out you have

paddling at maximum effort.

to reach to paddle. Extreme tumblehome is best left to experts

• Livery is a place where canoes are stored and rented. Most

because it makes handling trickier.

outfitters are also willing, for a modest fee, to provide return

• Width. The narrower the hull the farther you can push it per

service to your car if you launch your own canoe and require

stroke, but also the more easily it will tip. A wider, more stable

pick-up downstream.

canoe requires more paddle power. Measurements at the

• Paddles come in many styles, sizes, colors and materials and,

waterline determine how the vessel will paddle, ride, and

like the vessel itself, should be chosen for the mission. The

recover its equilibrium.

paddle you choose for slalom competition is different from the one needed for expeditions.


• Repair-ability. Can you patch the material yourself or are

Wish lists for canoe and kayak users know no end, but some

high-tech repairs required to exotic new materials?

items are best ordered at the time of purchase to get the right

• Rocker. Picture the way the hull rises from its deepest point to the top of the bow and stern. The more “rocker” the canoe has, the more easily the hull will turn but the less willing it will be to go in a straight line. In a slalom you want a lot of rocker; for cruising you probably want as little as possible. • Seam construction is dictated by the construction material but do look for high strength and watertight integrity at seams. • Safety perimeter lines are grab lines that allow you to right

mount or match for your vessel. (See Skid Place above). Consider a spray skirt, which fastens to the cockpit coaming of a kayak to keep the paddler dry. A flush-mount deck compass is offered by some manufacturers. Also available OEM may be a bilge pump. You’ll also need the right tie-downs and rack for cartopping and a life jacket for every soul on board. Janet Groene’s books include ABCs of Boat Camping, Creating Comfort Afloat and Living Aboard. She blogs at November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


Holidays for Divorced Parents By Diane O'Neil

For most people, the holiday season is a joyous time of year. It means celebrating, eating delicious food, and spending time with the people you love. Most of all, the holidays are about children. Whether your child is four or eighteen, they’re the ones who love the magic the most. Kids are what make the holiday season the most special.

about the other parent in front of our children. During the holi-

For many divorced families, the holidays may not be as joyful as


they once were. Usually, both Mom and Dad would like the kids to spend the entire holiday season with them, but that can’t happen anymore. The children spend a portion of the time with Mom, and another portion with Dad. Since they can’t all be together at the same time anymore, the kids are shuttled between the two homes. That’s hard on the kids. The following are some tips that can help make the holidays less stressful for divorced families:

You and Your Ex We all know that it’s best for the children if we can get along with our ex-spouses. Parent education classes, which all divorcing parents are required to attend, repeatedly stress the importance of getting along with your ex. We’re told to never speak badly

days, it’s even more important to do your best to get along with each other.

Do it for the kids If they see their parents arguing and complaining about each other from Halloween through New Year’s Day, their whole holiday season will be ruined. Children of divorced parents need to know that they have permission to love both mom and dad. That’s what best for the kids.

Both money and time seem to be in short supply during the holidays. We all spend too much time running frantically from this mall to that toy store. The kids feel it too; the older ones have the stress of finals, and the younger ones wish they could have a little more of our time. It can be crazy! One very important tip is to make sure you and your ex arrange the holiday visitation schedules well in advance. It’s vital that the kids know where they’re going to be for each holiday. Communicate the schedule to your children as early as possible, so they know exactly what to expect. And, don’t change the schedule at the last minute! Most divorced parents who live fairly close to each other alternate holiday time with the kids. One year Thanksgiving may be with Mom, and the next year Dad’s cooking the turkey. Other parents might swap Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

Divorced parents who live

Over the years I’ve learned that it isn’t the dollar amount of the gifts

in different states may

that make the holidays special. The most important things are the

have a little more difficult

traditions; spending time together, baking treats, and

time figuring out the

cutting down a Christmas tree.

schedule. My son goes to visit his dad and his

But we know that all kids love to open presents. The best

grandparents for his en-

possible thing you could do, is work with your ex regarding

tire winter break. I miss

holiday gift-giving. Try to follow these tips:

him terribly; I really want

• Don’t try to outdo each other when it comes to buying gifts.

him to be with me for the

How expensive an object is really isn’t that important. If

holidays. But then, after

you start playing this game, you’ll only end up hurting your

a couple deep breaths, I

checking account.

remember that he’s with

• Talk to your ex about what you plan to buy the children. The

me for forty-eight weeks

kids don’t need two of the same item. Make sure you’re both

out of the year. It’s ok

getting them something they’ll use.

for him to spend a White

• If your child would like a larger item that is not within your bud

Christmas in Minnesota

get, you could consider buying it with your ex. This would be a

each year.

great way to show your child that his parents are still able to work together and get along.

Gifts I love to buy Christmas gifts for my kids. If I had my way, I would

While we miss our children terribly when they’re not with us, it’s ok

buy all the hottest toys, new clothes, and also that new car for

to enjoy a little bit of “me” time. Plan to do some things that you

my eighteen-year-old. Then reality sets in. I need to budget my

always wish you had the time to do. These could be some projects

holiday gift giving, for my children and for everyone else on my

around the house, or a couple of really fat books you can dive into

list. I set aside a certain amount of money to spend on gifts for

with no interruptions.

my kids, and I stick to it.

Diane O'Neil is a freelance writer and single mother of three.

November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


What to Teach Your Kids about Credit By Brette Sember

Most of us probably headed out into the world without a very good understanding of how credit really works and how to use it responsibly. If the recent credit crunch is any indication, this country has a real problem with credit. The average U.S. household carries $8000 in debt on their credit cards, and has 12.71 credit cards. There are 1.3 billion credit cards in use in the US at this time. 43% of U.S. households spend more than they earn each year. We spend a lot of time on religious education, instrument lessons, sports practice, dance lessons, not to mention SAT prep course and possibly tutors in specific subjects to help our kids learn and grow, yet not many parents spend a lot of time helping kids learn about money and credit.

If he gets $20 for his birthday, suggest he save half and spend half. Start a piggy bank or even a real savings account for your child. Learning to save is an important skill and one that does not come naturally to many kids. Saving, is after all, a kind of impulse control. Just as you probably don’t let your child eat all his Halloween candy in one sitting, you shouldn’t let him spend all his money at once either. Young children can start to understand the concept of credit. After all, your child has seen you use credit cards, so it’s a good idea to explain what it is. Tell your child that the credit card allows you to buy things all month long and then pay for them all at once at the end of the month. Tell him if he bought a piece of gum from you every day of the week for ten cents but you let him use credit, he would have to pay you seventy cents at the end of the week. It’s the same concept – buy now and pay later.

Encourage Kids toThink about Money When your child is of elementary and middle school age, you know he understands how money works, but he still needs to be taught how to think about money. Explain to your child what a budget is - you as an adult have to create a budget for

Start Young

the household and can’t run out and spend every paycheck on

Your five year old doesn’t need to know a lot about credit. At this

clothes, video games, or candy because otherwise there wouldn’t

age, he’s still trying to learn to count money and is finding out

be money to pay for electricity, gas or food. Encourage your

how to spend it. Help your preschooler learn to save money.

child to make thoughtful purchases (avoiding impulse purchases


Allen Family Magazine

November/December 2008

when possible). Savings should be something that your child is expected to create and maintain. Encourage him to watch his savings grow and praise him for doing so. If your child wants to purchase something she doesn’t have the money for, allowing her to borrow it from you is fine, as long as you set up and enforce a repayment schedule. This is a great way to help kids learn credit in a hands on way. Help your child understand what purchases are beyond her means. If she wants to buy a $100 item, but only earns $5 a week in allowance, it will take her 20 weeks (almost five months) to pay that back.

Moving Towards More Responsibility By the time your child has become a teen he will hopefully have learned a lot of financial lessons from you. However, these are the years during which you can have the most impact on how he will manage money as an adult. Encourage your teen to set up a budget that includes expenses such as school lunches, entertainment, gifts for friends and family, and savings. Give your teen an allowance or require him to use money from a job to cover these expenses. Help him understand how to use the money carefully so all expenses can be met (he will need a budget). Give your teen the register from his savings account and teach him how to balance it against bank statements and keep it up to date. Once your teen is driving (and is even more independent) you might want to consider having a card issued to him from one of your credit card accounts. You will remain the accountholder, but he can be listed as an authorized user. Sit him down and talk about how you use credit. Explain that credit cards are a convenience that allow people to pay for things with one bill at the end of the month (and yes, you should be paying that balance off each month and teaching your teen to do the same). Tell him what expenses he is authorized to put on the card (maybe you will want to limit it to gas or school supplies). Expect him to retain the receipts and be prepared to provide an accounting of exactly how he used it. If you will allow him to use the card for personal discretionary spending (like movies or eating out), you can expect him to pay you back for all items charged to the card by the date the monthly bill is due. Doing this gives him the power to use a credit card, but with your close oversight and guidance. Many teens get their first individual credit card in their own name when they go off to college, so this allows him to try a credit card with training wheels before then.

Ten Rules to Teach Your Teens about Credit and Debt: 1. Credit is not evil or bad, it is just a useful tool adults can take advantage of. 2. Using a credit card is a real loan. It is not “free money” or a license to spend. 3. Credit cards can be very convenient and helpful if you use them correctly. 4. The balance on a credit card should be paid off every single month. If you don’t pay off the balance on a credit card, you will pay a very high interest rate. 5. You should never buy something on a credit card if you don’t have the money to pay for it. 6. It is ok to take out other kinds of credit – such as car loans or mortgages – without paying them off immediately, but you must be sure you can make the monthly payments for the entire length of the loan. 7. If you pay a credit card late, it will damage your credit rating and make it harder for you to get other credit. 8. Make sure your teen understands that student loans are not forgivable in bankruptcy – any school loan your child takes out will have to repaid. The same is true of tax debt. 9. Any time you spend beyond your means you are guaranteed to end up with debt you cannot pay. Teens need to be re minded to think about the future and how a big purchase today will leave them strapped for cash a month from now. 10. Store cards that offer “no interest and no payments” for six months or a year are a great deal – but only if your teen divides the amount charged by the number of months the offer is in effect and pays that sum each month, so the whole debt is paid before interest kicks in. If any debt remains after the free period, interest is charged on the entire purchase.

Explain That There is Oversight Teens also need to understand what credit reports and credit scores are. A credit report is like a report card for how well you

car loan or a mortgage when you want it. Teach your teen to get

pay back your loans and credit cards. It shows late payments

his free credit report every year from all three major credit report-

or missed payments. A credit score is like an overall grade for

ing agencies at Show him your

how well you manage your credit. This is real life though and

own credit report and explain how to read it.

not school and every mistake you make with credit will haunt you for at least seven years (the length of time an item remains on a credit report). If you have bad credit, you won’t be able to get a

Brette Sember is a former attorney and mom of two children. She is the author of The Everything Kids’ Money Book and The Complete Credit Repair Kit and has taught a course about credit and debt for Barnes and Noble University. November/December 2008

Allen Family Magazine


I trust in my body.

I trust in the process.

I trust in my baby.

Amy Giles, CNM • Becky Burpo, CNM • Betty Hoffman, CNM

Honoring the Spirit of Birth

Collin County’s only birth center serving families throughout the Metroplex If you’re looking for a Dallas midwife, please come in and take some time to get to know us! As the premier birth center in North Texas, our clientele have come from Dallas and all of the surrounding cities, including McKinney, Denton, Fort Worth, and Highland Park. We’ve even had people travel from California, Colorado, Oklahoma, and South Carolina specifically to birth at Allen Birthing Center. Here you will find out why someone chooses a natural birth with a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) in a freestanding birth center. In addition you will see why healthy women are choosing a Dallas midwife for their gynecological, well-woman, and annual physical services.

At Allen Birthing Center, we • Honor women • Respect individuality • Welcome newborns sacredly • Provide a nurturing environment for those believing in pure health of body, mind, and spirit. Maternity & well-woman care you can trust

214-495-9911 406 W. Main Street Allen, TX 75013

Allen Family Magazine issue 6  

Allen Family Magazine issue 6

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