Friday, July 21, 2017

It's Just Stuff...A Vaca Recap

Oh my word, we had such a wonderful vacation. It was such a blessing to get away from it all, to take a break, to visit areas of the country as a family that we hadn't seen before...just all of it. We definitely needed it.

We had a long drive home (about 12.5 hours to be exact) but the kids did great, the dog did great and we made it safely with everyone still happy!! I'd call that a WIN! Also, we managed to come home under the radar so that our oldest could surprise his favorite girl with his early arrival. LOL.And you KNOW how important that is!!

Today we spent the day unpacking, cleaning and generally settling back in to "normal" life as we know it. As I had a few moments to myself, getting my stuff taken care of, something struck me.


It was nice to be back in our own home and not living out of our suitcases, BUT...there wasn't a single thing we left behind that I truly missed. 


The things (read: PEOPLE) that mean the most to me, they were with me. All the rest of it is just extra. It's JUST stuff.

I wish I could put into words for you the changes that Sean and I have gone through over the last few months. It really has been a paradigm shift. Our thought life has totally changed. Our focus has totally changed. Our goals, our dreams, our purpose...have all totally changed.

There was a time when we had next to nothing. We lived paycheck to paycheck, lived off credit cards while we "sold the dream"...hoping and praying that one day it would all pay off. We knew, we just KNEW that if we could just make a little more money, we'd be set...we'd be happy. We'd have ENOUGH.

Looking back, I realize that all the money in the world truly does NOT buy happiness. Happiness, Joy, Contentment...they all come from within...from your mindset...from the realization of what is TRULY important in life.

I am so excited about where we go from here. I am so thankful to all of you who have journeyed this far with us...and I hope that you will continue to do so. I pray that we are able to encourage you, share with you, and enable you---even in the smallest of ways--to recognize the "stuff" in your lives, whatever that may be, that just truly doesn't matter.

Spend time on what DOES matter. Spend time with PEOPLE that matter. Spend time doing what you LOVE. Even if you only have an hour today...start there. Then give it two hours. Then three. Start purging the excess. Strip your life of all that is "extra". I promise you won't regret it.

After's just stuff.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Memory Lane...

So right now we are kind of all over our home state of Kansas. We have family we are seeing/helping in multiple cities. As some of you know, my grandmother passed away in March. This is my first trip back home since, as we were unable to make it up for the funeral. Given that we aren't sure what the plan is with her home yet, I wanted to make one more trip to walk through it, breathing in the familiar smells, reminiscing days past and trying to permanently etch it forever in my memory.

Grandma's house...nearly every year of my life for the last 40 years, I've spent time here.

The fountain in the town square

The building with our family name (Mater) at the top.

My grandpa's workshop in their basement...almost exactly as he left it 37 years absolute favorite place in the whole house. I loved him so.

A painting my great great Aunt made in 1911

I also had the chance to visit one of 3 places I consider my "hometown". I grew up in 3 different towns within a 20 mile radius of each other, so a piece of my childhood remains in each. This trip, I took time to go back to where my daddy had lived, and decided to get some pictures to help solidify my memories of this place as well. So many many years ago...

Main Street U.S.A. in Peabody, KS. I love this little town!

Just the BEST little diner in all of Kansas...and just so happens to be owned & operated by my cousin, Tim!

The last house my daddy lived in. He affectionately painted it in Red, White, Blue & Brown, in his words, "the Red, White & Blue for the USA and the Brown to represent his opinion of the government." LOL. Oh how I miss you Daddy!!

The first house we lived in when we moved to Peabody when I was just 5 years old.

It's hard to see but just past that tree line, in the middle of the picture, is what's left of the house my daddy built. He lost it after my parents' divorce and the new owner let it fall into disrepair. Oh what I'd give to return it to its original glory for a new family to enjoy. My absolute BEST childhood memories were made in that house and on that 20 acres!
What used to be my great grandmother's house where my daddy spent many of his own childhood days, also in Peabody, KS.

The city pool in Peabody where I spent most of my summer days growing up.

The Coneburg Inn...just the neatest little restaurant/bar where daddy would take us to play pool.

Much of my childhood was wrought with struggle and sadness...a life as a child of divorce. And yet...when my heart comes home to these places, the only things I remember are the laughter, the happiness, the fond memories of a child well-loved, cherished...a childhood that makes me miss "the good ole days" yet look forward to all of the memories I'm creating now, as an adult, with my own kids.

Another age-order pic with more cousins!

And of course, Jake wanted to get a planking pic in for his dad!

It's...interesting...looking back, down memory lane. So many things I miss, PEOPLE that I miss. So many things I wish I would've paid more attention to, spent more time on. And yet, in all honesty, if given the chance, I don't think I'd change a single thing.

Don't get me wrong, I'd give anything....anything at all....for one more hour, one more day, with my daddy. But all in all, the older I get, the more I come to realize, God knows exactly what He's doing on this crazy ride called life. And His plans are always, ALWAYS better than mine...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Badlands (Day 11)

Today, we had a change of plans. We intended to drive up to Spearfish to do some hiking and swimming, as well as to visit Deadwood, SD. However, upon news of a family emergency, we loaded up to head to KS a day early.

On the way, as we had planned to do Thursday anyway, we swung through Badlands National Park. There is a scenic drive that takes you off the highway, through the park, and back onto the highway miles down the road. There are a number of lookout points to pull over to hike, take pictures or just rest. It was the perfect end to this portion of our trip!

Many of the stops had walkways allowing you to venture out off the roadway.

The Badlands area is beautiful! All the different stops offer different views and Sean and some of the kids even jumped out for a quick 15 minute hike!

Those are some of my babies up on that ridge!

The two on the left (Sean & Kalea) and the middle two (Caed & Avalynn)!

It is definitely worth the hour or so to drive through if it's on your way!

We have stopped for the night in Sioux Falls as a midway point to KS, but tomorrow we are back on the road! Ready to see family!!

Harney Peak & Horsethief Lake (Day 10)

So this morning Jacob and the girls and I slept in, then headed to the pool area where I was able to catch up on the blog (little by little) while Sean and the younger two boys went on an adventurous 8 mile hike!

My youngest son...with a mountain goat in the background. Or as he calls it "the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) with a goat".

Their hike to Harney Peak Lookout was 4 miles one way and at the peak it housed an old Watch Tower that you could walk through! It is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains and the west of the Pyrenees Moutains in Europe! It was just over 7500 ft above sea level. They were flat out exhausted (and stinky) by the time they got back just after lunch, but they had a blast!

The Watch Tower

We grabbed a quick lunch together then headed off to Horsethief Lake again for the boys to do more diving and the girls and I to swim a bit. This time I positioned myself to get some better pics of them jumping off--and confirmed they are complete lunatics. LOL

Horsethief Lake

Caed jumping

Elijah jumping

There were quite a few more people there today, so the jumping took longer to accomplish, but it was well worth it for the warmer temps of the afternoon as opposed to the cooler temps from yesterday evening!

And last but not least--planking pics from their hike!

Sean's version:

Caed's version:

Tomorrow we are off to the Badlands!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Needles Highway, Alpine Slides & Treetop Adventures! (Day 9)

Needles Highway is one of many highways that winds through the Black Hills. However, it gets it's name from the rock formations that both surround the highway and that you drive THROUGH. Yes, I said that correctly. You actually drive through the in a number of one-lane roadways where drivers must take turns to drive through and where you can reach out and TOUCH the sides of the tunnel because it's so narrow. If you Google "Needles Highway", you can actually see images of passenger buses driving through...although I'm certain they did so very cautiously and slowly!

While on the highway, we took full advantage of some of the "pull off" areas that allow you to park and then explore. It appears all 5 of our kids LOVE climbing rocks and hiking...although Kalea does get a bit antsy if certain parts appear a bit difficult. We've also come to learn that Avalynn's fearlessness extends to her hiking...meaning she will take off without you and without a care in the world for her own limits or safety! Needless to say, she keeps us on our toes! We agree it's only a matter of time until she has a broken bone from her adventures. YIKES!!

After leaving the more scenic portion of the highway, we ventured to Custer State Park Wildlife Loop, where, SUPPOSEDLY, animals such as deer, goats and bison roam freely and abundantly...

We saw all of 3 donkeys and 1 deer. LOL. Pretty anticlimactic for as long as the drive takes to get back to civilization! I'm sure it was just a matter of timing as we DID see a herd of buffalo off in the far far distance. Due to the lack of animal sightings, the drive managed to put ALL FIVE kids to sleep! I can't remember the last time that happened!! So Sean and I enjoyed the quiet and time to converse while we made our way back.

We stopped at Keystone for a quick "lupper" as we call it--late afternoon meal between lunch and supper. Right next door was a place we wanted to stop--Tramway Adventure Park. The girls and I purchased tickets for 5 trips each on the Alpine Slide (the only thing they could both do) while the boys and Sean all opted for a Treetop Obstacle/Zipline Course!

Avalynn was upset that she was required to ride the slide with me and wasn't allowed to "go fast" (their rules, not mine). She was also crushed when she later found out she didn't weigh enough to go ziplining. Yep. My 5 year old fearless wonder wanted to zipline!!! And I have no doubt she would've. It broke my heart that she couldn't go. The minimum weight was 50 lbs and she weighs only 45. BOO.

Heading up the chair lift!

Mommy & Ave about to slide down!

My big girl heading off on her own on the "advanced" portion of the slides!

My crazy hubby high up in the treetop ropes course!

Kalea surprisingly decided she wanted to zipline and I told her if she would go, I would go with her. This trip is finding us ALL stepping out of our comfort zones, so why not?? Well, we got our harnesses and got all the way to the top...only to have her panic and choose to walk back down. She kept apologizing, but I assured her I was proud of her just for TRYING to go...and that one day she would be ready. She's getting SO big!

Our last stop of the day was at Horsethief Lake. The guys were all sweaty from the adventure course and wanted to cool off. So I sat on the shore enjoying the 76 DEGREE weather, as the rest of my family crazily chose to get in the water and even do some cliff diving! We didn't stay long but we all agreed we'd go hiking tomorrow and head back to the same lake for some mid-day swimming when it won't be so chilly!

My crazies in the water!!

So tomorrow, it's hiking, swimming and cliff diving (for some of us).