Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bye to 2016

Every year is filled with good times and bad. That's just a fact of life. For our family, the past two years have been incredibly difficult. We have faced challenges we could have never imagined. Yet, when I look back, I can honestly say that these painful years have a purpose. Not that I fully comprehend that purpose, but I choose to believe that every good and every bad thing that happens is shaping me into the thing God is making for Himself.

I will say, however, that I do not believe that some of the horrible things that we endured were things that God liked. If He is a Father, there is no way He was ok with some of what has happened to our family. That's why I'm trusting that at some point (and I hope that's soon), He will do something to help us and get rid of the stuff that's causing us so much pain.

Meanwhile, there are some moments from 2016 that I truly loved and appreciated. I will remember these moments as much as I will remember the bad ones. I will make a choice to remember both the bad and good. I may not type out the bad stuff here, but I will remember it all on purpose. I never want to forget the way I have felt this year. I want to use the fear and the pain to motivate me in my love and compassion for people who hurt.

Although I'm not writing the list of bad stuff here, I'm remembering it forever. But I'm thankful for the good stuff and will honor it all by saying "thank you Lord for giving us good things" and here are 16 of my favorite memories of 2016...

  1. The birth of my amazing nephew Cash Wilson Allen!
  2. My daughter starting at SHSU, my alma mater
  3. My son getting his driver's license and a super amazing sports car
  4. My husband leaving his career to start a new and exciting one
  5. My job at Fusion Academy (worth the low pay for the happiness it brings)
  6. Getting to hear a donkey scream "HEE HAW" (I seriously did not realize they outright say that, but they do!!!)
  7. The Dallas Cowboys
  8. Our family underwater photo shoot in January (that was actually my favorite day of 2016)
  9. Running the Houston Marathon for Team Christopher while wearing the names of more than 100 cancer patients and raising funds for the LLS. Go Team!
  10. Watching "Teresa" with Morgan. So happy my girl watches telenovelas with me!
  11. Going to Nashville with my mom
  12. Another trip to Walt Disney World
  13. Seeing my son swim Varsity and get his letter jacket
  14. Celebrating 20 years of marriage
  15. Viewing Christmas lights in Prestonwood with my hubby and kids
  16. Ending the year in Colorado in the snowy mountains.

Dear Lord, thank You for being with us in the good times and the bad. Thank You for loving us in sickness and in health and in poverty and wealth. You always remain true to Your promise - You never leave us or forsake us. Thank you. Although I felt abandoned and unloved and often like a piece of trash on the side of the road, You were with me all along. You gave me strength to continue breathing when I wanted to stop. You gave me grace to get up in the mornings and put one foot in front of the other to keep on moving forward. I believe in You and trust You as I pray for justice. I will hope for justice for my family til I take my final breath. If I never see it, I will trust in Your plan. As John said in the final book of the Bible, "come quickly". Now, 2017... bring it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back To School 2016

My sweet girl in her new "home"

I think her daddy is about to cry

Well, our daughter was safely moved into her dorm on August 20. Although she isn't far from home, it was still hard to drive away leaving her all alone on that big campus. The first few days were rough for her which meant they were horrible for me, but now she's happy. She really loves her education courses and I'm so excited to hear more about what all she's learning.

The next hurdle for me was last Monday when my baby boy drove away to the high school. I know that traffic well and found myself on my knees praying for his safety. Will I ever stop worrying about that?

So his schedule is crazy, but when he comes home, I like to greet him with a snack and a smile and get him to tell me anything at all about his day. That's not easy since he doesn't like to talk as much as Morgan, but whatever he shares makes my heart happy.

My house smells like chocolate chip cookies and I look forward to his return home from swim practice later. There are many ups and down in this new season, but I'm so very grateful for my wonderful kids and pray that they will continue to thrive.

After school chocolate chip cookies!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Goodbye to Carlines

My baby boy turned 16 on July 11. For his birthday, we bought him a sports car, a black Camaro with black leather seats. This thing is absolutely beautiful (just like my son). A couple weeks later, he got his drivers license and as he took off on his first drive all by himself, I had a mini break down.

It hit me that I don't know exactly the date or time, but very recently I had experienced my last ever car line! I've been doing car lines for many years now- school, sports and various camps, etc. I have sat in my big SUV waiting on kids in car lines in the cold, in the heat, in the rain, in the morning, in the night. I have learned to bring a book or a lap top or an iPad. I have played games or watched Netflix or talked on the phone and waited and waited and waited. How did I miss that the last time was the last time?

Suddenly it feels like my role as a mom has vastly changed. There were days when I got really tired of being the "taxi". I even laughed when I saw bumper stickers on the back of mini vans that said, "swim taxi" and thought about getting one. But I am no longer the taxi driver for my kids. They are both licensed drivers who do not need me to get them where they're going. Who knew that might make me sad? Who knew that deep inside I actually cherished those times in the car at 5:00 a.m. as I took them to swim practice. Tired and barely functioning, it was time together even if we weren't talking. And speaking of talking, my son is so busy all the time that the only time we ever talked was the afternoons when I picked him up from swim practice to race home for dinner. The first thing he always asked as soon as he got in the car was, "what's for dinner?" Then if I was lucky, he would open up and tell me a little about his day.

Now that he's driving will he ever tell me about his day again? Boys are so different than girls. My daughter texts and calls and we go to movies together or lunch. Will my son be so grown up now that I never see him again? Goodness, I'm missing CARLINE!!!

OK, I'll be fine. School starts in a couple of weeks and I'll be nervous but happy to send him off to Junior year in his own car. Thankfully I believe in prayer or I'd go crazy with worry. I'll miss sitting in the hot car in car line at the high school, but as I enter the new season of my life as a mom, I'll be grateful. I have amazing kids who have grown into young adults. So, goodbye carlines and hello to my new season in life as the luckiest mom on the planet.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Move

Moving is never easy and the move we just made was the hardest of my life. Downsizing by 1,000 square feet was part of the difficulty. The stress surrounding our move was overwhelming. But, I can happily say we are finally moved in and things are shaping up.

What I know to be true is that the first thing you must do is unpack and make the new house feel like home quickly. It wasn't easy to do this because I left town a few days after the move and returned to many boxes still unpacked.

But, today I can finally say we are done with the boxes. Most of the photos and art work have been hung. The new Casa Crews is beginning to feel more like home.

It won't last long of course. We only intend to live here for a couple of years. But making it home is important for us all. That includes Morgan who is in college because on her trips home we want her to feel like this is her home too.

So, the first thing I did on the first night here was open up a bottle of wine. I needed one after that crazy move!

Estancia is one of my favorite wine brands

On the first night, things were too messy and boxed up for me to start cooking so we continued the take out system we'd been on for almost two weeks. That gets old fast so as soon as I could, I got the kitchen organized so I could cook. Amongst my first meals at the new place were Greek chicken with rice pilaf and salad. The comforts of the old house's kitchen right here in the new house. Awww, nice.

The new kitchen is smaller than my old house, but very pretty

The Greek girl in me just had to have homemade Greek food!

I made the bathrooms my next priority and the bedrooms after that. In this new house, the master bedroom is upstairs which is very different for us after 20 years of sleeping downstairs. Morgan's room is now the downstairs room. She needs that because it's fairly private with her own bathroom and I think a college student needs to have their own space. I'll load photos of the bedrooms next time. The one positive is that our new master is much larger than our last one. I really do love the master suite.

The dining room and living room are all opened up and I wanted to create a cozy atmosphere in those. I think I achieved my goal and I do feel pretty warm and safe there. The dog likes it there too.

The dining room looks a lot like our other house but I think we'll use it more here.

Our living room, filled with comforts of home.

For the next two years, this is our home. I'll do everything to make it feel that way for us all and if my life calms down ever, I may add more recipes and sports/recreation stories to this blog.

Cheers from Casa Crews!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My Mom

No one on Earth is like my mom. She's truly the greatest lady I know. It's hard to believe that four of us popped out of that tiny body of hers! I was the first.

As a mom, she's always been kind, compassionate and very wise. All four of us go to her with our troubles and she listens without judgment and gives us counsel when we ask. I've seen moms who criticize their kids or try to manipulate them. Thankfully, my mom has encouraged us to live our own lives and be who God has called us to be. 

Her calm, quiet peacefulness might fool you into thinking she's all sugar and no spice, but the truth is, she knows how to stand up and fight for what's right. And her warrior spirit is something I'm deeply grateful to have on my side in life.

You might not know how talented she is when you hang out with her because she's too humble to boast about herself. She prefers to listen to others, but my mom can write stories and songs, she's a gifted teacher, she can sew, she's an amazing cook and much more. She's highly intelligent and super healthy too. In fact, she looks like she's my age with beautiful Greek skin, long thick hair and bright hazel eyes. She's the one who taught me to love physical fitness and eating healthy foods.

My mom loves my dad too. And not just the emotional romantic kind of love, but the kind of love that counts the most- she takes care of him when he's sick and travels the world with him on all kinds of adventures. They are best friends.

But the best thing about my mom is her faith. No matter what's happening, she's strong in her faith. She prays for us all. All the time. She never gives up. I wish I were more like her.

If we were paid according to what we deserve, she would be the richest woman on planet Earth. Today is her birthday and I wish I could give her a big hug. But I'll just send her a virtual hug til I can see her again. How lucky am I that Linda is my mom.

Happy birthday MOM!!!

Monday, May 23, 2016

A New Season

Morning coffee by the pool will be a cherished memory.

So we have sold Casa Crews. Well, it's under contract anyway. For many reasons, we made the decision to list our beautiful house. It is not easy saying goodbye to the home where your kids grew up and where so many incredible memories were made, but we know we've made the right decision.

For now, our plan is to find something a little smaller in The Woodlands and stay for two more years to allow our son to graduate from high school here with his friends. Meanwhile, our search for a new home in Colorado will begin. We have plenty of time to find the right place near Denver where we would like to move at the end of these two years. If we can make it work, we may be those people who live in two places. These are both sad and exciting times.

Our last day in our house is June 30 and I'm posting a few photos here to remind myself of the place our family and friends gathered for food, laughter, and lots and lots of love. We hosted some seriously fabulous parties here - swimming and playing "Piper" in the pool, grilling and drinking beer by the fire pit, wine tastings, wedding and baby showers, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas celebrations, dive in movie nights and much more. At Casa Crews, our blood relatives and our friends  are all family and we will be eternally grateful for the time we had here.

Now, may the next season of our lives be filled with love, laughter, peace and lots of cheer.

Welcome to Casa Crews where we're all family

Many great days and nights were spent in this back yard

We always enjoyed meals with friends and family here

Lots of family time was spent here playing games and laughing

Sunday, May 22, 2016

20 Uses For Vicks VapoRub

So I found a website today with 20 uses of Vicks VapoRub and tried to post it on Pinterest, but they said the site was too full of spam. Since I want to keep these ideas (in case they work), I have copied them to paste on my blog. I plan to try some of these ideas and will update the blog to let you know if they work.


  1. Defer Mosquitoes. Apply a small amount of Vaseline on your clothing and skin. It will keep the mosquitoes away from you.
  2. Sinus Headaches. Vicks VapoRub is a good home remedy for treating sinus headaches. Apply Vicks under your nose. Breathe deeply. The menthol present in it will calm the headache.
  3. Alleviate Acne. It might sound a little crazy, but Vicks VapoRub helps in clearing your skin. Apply it on acne several times a day. This will soothe and dry out acne.
  4. Stage Tears. Need to shed tears on cue for a photo shoot or stage performance? Just pat a small amount of Vicks VapoRub under your eyes. (Note- Don't apply it into your eyes or on your eyelids)
  5. Natural Insect Repellant. Rub Vicks VapoRub on your neck, inner knees, elbows, and behind your ears. It will keep insects away from you. To ward off flies, open the bottle of Vicks on the picnic table. Isn't it the best eco friendly trick to apply with insects?
  6. Dissolve Bruises. Mix a pinch of salt in Vicks VapoRub. Apply it on a fresh bruise. It will break up the bruise quickly.
  7. Mitigate Sore Muscles. Gently rub Vicks VapoRub on sore muscles. Then, cover the affected area with a warm and dry towel. Lie down or slightly lift the paining limb til soreness reduces. Practice it three times per day.
  8. Skin Moisturizer. Vicks VapoRub is an excellent moisturizer for dry skin. Rub it on your skin and feel the magic.
  9. Tennis Elbow. Are you suffering from tennis elbow? Rub Vicks VapoRub and get rid of the pain. Menthol and camphor present in it will heal the aching elbow.
  10. Heal Cracked Heels. Spread a thick layer of Vicks VapoRub on your heels and feet. Then don the cotton socks. Wash your feet in the morning with warm waters. Use pumice stone to exfoliate the softened skin. Employ it every night for maintaining the healthy smooth heels.
  11. Fingernail or toenail fungus. Rub Vicks VapoRub on the infected toenail or fingernail, two times a day. Cover your feet with cotton socks, at bedtime. Frequently trim the nails, till infected part is entirely removed.
  12. Chest Decongestant. Apply Vicks VapoRub on your throat and chest, to get relief from congestion symptoms and cough.
  13. Prevent Your Cat from Scratching. To prevent your mischievous Miss Kitty from tarnishing windows, walls and doors, rub a small quantity of Vicks VapoRub to these areas.
  14. Heal Splinters or Cuts. For speeding up the healing time and preventing infection, apply Vicks on any splinter or cut.
  15. Reek-free Racehorses. On the race day, professional racers rub Vicks VapoRub below the nostrils of racehorses. It deters the horses from the fascinating stench of the female pony, thereby keeping them focused on the race.
  16. Stretch Marks. Apply Vicks VapoRub on the stretch marks. You will notice the result within two weeks of regular application.
  17. Deter Pet Pee-Pee. If you want to prevent your pet from wetting the rug or any area of the house, put an open bottle of Vicks VapoRub in those areas.
  18. Get Rid of Eczema. Apply Vicks VapoRub on the eczema affected skin. It will lessen the inflammation and itchiness.
  19. Ear Pain Reliever. Apply Vicks VapoRub on a cotton ball. Put it in aching ear. It will provide you instant relief.
  20. Athletes Feet. To heal athlete’s feet, apply Vicks VapoRub two times a day.