Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hien and Dave

Yesterday we drove to see our good friends, Hien and Dave in New Jersey. Hien is my best friend from college and since Hien and Dave were college sweethearts, I've known Dave for as long as I've known her. I met them during my freshman orientation (they were juniors at the time) and we've made a concerted effort to keep in touch over the years and miles. We were in each other's weddings, they've flown down to Texas a couple times to visit us (she even drove with me when I first moved to Texas back in 2000!), and we always make a point to visit them on our PA visits.

Here is Mai An, their youngest baby girl (~10 months old) showing off her tongue.

Happy Mai An in the exersaucer.

Aunty Hien holding our happy Hannah.

Quarter Asian baby meets 100% Asian baby! (yes, that blue-eyed, strawberry-blond-haired, fair-skinned girl on the left has a 1/4 cup of Asian blood in her veins, believe it or not)...

Christopher, Dan (3 years old) and Sarah hanging out in the basement with all of the toys.

So Goldilocks sat down in Papa bear's chair, but it was toooooo big.

Dan takes his chalk drawings very seriously.

Christopher was so excited to color with the giant chalk. Sidewalk chalk is such a cheap and effective form of childhood entertainment.

Friday, May 30, 2008


After spending the day in Martindale, we headed back to Philipsburg, PA, which is about an hour and 15 minute drive north of Martindale. My sister was born there and we both spent most of our early childhood there until 4th and 6th grade, respectively. Most of my dad's side of the family still lives in and around Philipsburg, so we always make a weekend trip there during our vacation in PA.

Here is Sarah sitting in my Pap's Maple tree. I told her that mommy used to climb that tree when she was a little girl...and always got in big trouble for it!

Here is a picture of the Philipsburg cousins - Sarah Ruth, Sarah Jane, Christopher, Rebecca, and Hannah.

Here's another good shot of all of them together. Sarah Jane and Rebecca are my cousin Shelly's kids...which makes them my 2nd cousins...which makes them my kids' 3rd cousins. They remembered each other and played so well together.

Here is a great photo of Mam Mam and her girls - my Aunt Linda and my Aunt Bubby.

This is a great 4-generation shot, minus Sarah Jane. Mam Mam in the center, her daughter (my Aunt Bub) on the left, my Aunt Bub's girls, Missy and Shelly, and Shelly's oldest daughter, Rebecca.

Here are the preachers: John on the left and my Uncle Paul, a retired CM&A preacher.

Here is Hannah enjoying all of the applause she is getting from simply picking up these whiffle balls and clapping them together.

My Aunt Bubby with Sarah.

The day we headed back to my mom's house, we stopped off at Black Moshannon state park and walked around. The weather couldn't have been more perfect all weekend long, and it's always so refreshing to walk and drive around "Blacky."

Here is a view of the lake from the Bog trail.


Funerals can be a very sad event, but they can also be a wonderful time of reflecting and remembering your loved one's life while being reunited with family members that you haven't seen in a long time. My Aunt Sis' funeral service was on Saturday, May 24th at the church where she and my Uncle Chuck served for 28 years, Martindale Alliance Church in Portage, PA. Many tears were shed that day, and yet everyone acknowledged that our grief was not for her, but rather for us who are left behind, missing her. Even Rachel, her youngest daughter who sang a song at the service (don't ask me how on earth she got through it but she sang beautifully and had us all boo-hooing), said at the end, "We grieve for us, but we rejoice for her!" My Aunt Sis' hope was built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. It was a very beautiful service commemorating her life and filled with the hope of heaven. My Aunt Sis wanted to have inscribed on her tombstone, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

Sarah was so inspired by Rachel's singing that she got up on the stage, grabbed the microphone and gave it all she got! (Yes, this was AFTER the service, the burial and the reception).

While Sarah was making up words and singing in a very flat key about Jesus, Holy, holy, holy, I will not disobey God, etc., Christopher was singing about pizza. I hope this is not an indication of my children's spiritual state.

Here is a 4 generation photo of the Vaughn side of the family. My grandmother, Mam Mam, is in the center, my dad is on the right, I'm obviously on the left with my 3 1/2 children all around.

My sister Melanie and me with my Uncle Chuck. It was so good to visit with him, remembering old times...but it was also rather heartbreaking since my Aunt Sis was not there.

Here I am with my 2nd cousin, David Jr., my cousin Rachel and her husband, Melvin, and my sister, Melanie.

Here I am with my cousin Debbie, my Aunt Sis' eldest daughter.

Here is my dad (Pap) taking Sarah for a ride on the 4-wheeler. Christopher, consistent with his nature, had no desire to get on that thing. Sarah, consistent with her nature, couldn't wait to get on and had no desire to get off!

Here are Christopher and Sarah by the creek (or as they say in Western PA, "crick") behind my Uncle Chuck's house. It's funny, I remember that creek being so much bigger when I played and explored in it as a kid! Being in that small community again brought back so many memories. I am thankful that my Uncle Chuck is surrounded by all of his kids and grandkids as well as a very loving church community.

Jake and Jaya

While we miss our old friends Jake and Jaya Yohannan ever since they moved to the Northeast from Texas, we are thankful that they live close enough to my mom so that we can visit them on our annual vacation trips to PA. These photos were taken on the day (May 20th) we drove to northern NJ to spend the day at their new house.

Here is John sandwiched between Jaya and Jake. When Patrick, our associate pastor, saw this picture he said, "Look, an Oreo!"

Here is EJ (that stands for Elijah Jedidiah, in case you were wondering) with his mommy.

Here are Sarah, EJ, Christopher and Jesse. I'm so bummed that by the time I thought to bring out the camera, both Josephine and Hannah were taking naps. We realized while we were there that we had kids ages 1 (Hannah), 2(Josephine), 3(Sarah), 4(Jesse), 5(Christopher), and 6(EJ)! To top it off, Jaya and I are both due within a month of each other.

Here is Uncle John with EJ.

Longwood Gardens

Ok, I've been slacking in the blogging department and thought I'd do a few quick posts of the things that have been keeping us so busy!

This post is from the day we went to Longwood Gardens with my mom and my Uncle Paul from Toronto on Monday, May 19th.

Here we all are in the sculpted gardens. Christopher and Sarah remembered this from last year and were so excited when they saw it from a distance that Christopher exclaimed, "Look! There it is!" and then took off running towards it and all throughout it. Thankfully it was not crowded the day we went, so it was relatively easy to find them even though they were running all over the place.

Me, Christopher, Hannah, Sarah, my mom and my Uncle Paul inside the vast conservatory which is a botanical feast for the senses!

Here is Christopher in the orchid room. Oh, it smelled SO wonderful in there!

Here's mommy and happy Hannah in the orchid room.

Hannah was SO happy to get out of the stroller that we just let her walk around the conservatory. She had a BALL. As she was walking down this hallway, she would stop before each of these grates, lean over and yell, "Da!" as if she knew there would be an echo!

Mommy and her girls (ha - all 3 of them!).

What a fantastic display of colors.

This picture cracks me up because it is so typical of my Chinese-tourist family. Never miss an opportunity for a photo shoot!

Here is Sarah on the side of the path back to the visitor center.
Even though we spent the entire morning and afternoon here and were pretty exhausted after arriving home, we felt renewed and refreshed rather than strung-out. Everything there is so gorgeous and walking around the place is so stress-free and relaxing. I can't believe I never went to Longwood when I lived here (only about 30 minutes away from my mom's house). Now that we're out-of-town tourists on vacation, we've seen so much more of my former surroundings than I ever did as a resident.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hannah walking, talking and reading...

Hannah has made a lot of developmental progress over the last month and is also doing some new fun, cute things that I'd like to document somewhere so I won't forget. So this blog post is filled with videos.

Here's an earlier video of Hannah walking faster over longer distances (she was nearly 13 months old when this video was taken at our house in TX).

This video was taken of Hannah walking up and down the neighbor's driveway yesterday (now nearly 14 months old). For some reason she got a kick out of going up and down the little incline.

Another thing that Hannah has gotten into this month is picking up anything that resembles a phone, be it a real phone, cell phone, toy phone, remote control, or calculator, and then "talking" on it. In the video below, she picks up what I think is the remote to John's iPod (are we a lazy culture or what??) and then walks and talks on it while holding it up to her ear.

I started taking the video below today because Hannah and Sarah looked so cute sitting together at the little coffee table 'reading' books. Hannah can climb into those little toy chairs, but I think Sarah probably helped her turn around, get situated and then scooted her chair up to the table. I'm so glad I continued the video footage because Sarah went on to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, and then handed the book to Hannah who imitated Sarah by doing her own version of the same. It's about 2-3 minutes long, but it's worth the watch if you get a kick out of seeing a 1 year old copying a 3 year old.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Aunt Sis - Absent from the body, present with the Lord.

After a short battle with cancer (though we really don't know how long she may have had it), my Aunt Sis went Home to be with the Lord this morning. She was the eldest of 5 siblings on my dad's side and was always called "Sister", even from childhood. So it just seemed natural that all of her nieces and nephews would call her Aunt Sissy, though her name was Mary (Vaughn) Kephart. She was married to the Reverend Charles Kephart (my Uncle Chuck) and they faithfully served at the same Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) church in Martindale, PA for about 30 years. He retired from the ministry about a month and 1/2 ago and they moved into a new house down the street. I think it was only a couple weeks later that she went to the hospital, where she suffered a debilitating stroke and where they found cancer in several of her vital organs.

I do not grieve for her because I know that she is now completely free from cancer, sin, suffering, pain, tears, and death. Jesus was her Lord and Savior and she is presently worshiping Him face to face with infinite joy. But I do grieve for her husband/best friend, my Uncle Chuck, and for her children, Debbie, Buck, David & Rachel, who loved her so much, as well as her 5 grandchildren. It saddens me that my grandmother, Mam Mam, has to see her firstborn precede her in death. She also leaves behind her siblings and MANY nieces and nephews, whom she touched in so many ways over the years.

My fondest memories of Aunt Sis are from my Mahaffey Camp days. She was my sponsor from the time I started going (age 13) until I turned 18 and didn't need a sponsor anymore. It was during those years that I became a follower of Christ, but was incredibly immature in my faith and still had a lot of snotty-teenage tendencies to shake. Like her younger sisters, Aunt Sis was a spiritual mom to me, always encouraging me (and oftentimes rebuking me!) to live a life that was consistent with my calling as a Christian. It was such a formative time for me, spiritually and otherwise, and she did not shy away from the responsibility of helping me to turn from my worldly ways and to grow in my walk with Christ. As a teenager, I didn't appreciate it as I do now, but looking back I now know that she invested herself in me because she loved me and cared for my spiritual growth. I only wish I could have told her all of this before she left this world.

This is the verse I think of when I think of Aunt Sis and her impact on my life:
"I therefore...urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." (Ephesians 4:1)

And this is the verse I think of now that she has preceded us in meeting the Lord face to face:
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep...Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A day at Dad's house.

Today we pretty much spent the whole day at my dad's house for a family BBQ on the new back deck that he's been building for the past year. It was a gorgeous day and perfect for sitting outside, relaxing, visiting, and eating. The deck was also perfect for the kids to play on since it is enclosed, but yet so spacious. Those present were my sister Melanie and her son Luke, my brother Brandon and his wife Alie, my sister Molly, and of course my dad and his wife Sharon.

Here's my dad with all 4 of his kids. From L-R: Melanie, Molly, Mindy, Dad, and Brandon standing in the back.

This is my dad with Sharon, holding Hannah.

Here's Hannah getting to know her Uncle Brandon. I wish I had a picture of Sarah with Uncle Brandon because I think she developed a crush on him! She totally flirted with him, followed him around, asked where he was when she couldn't find him, and only told him good-bye when we had to leave!

Here's Hannah riding her John Deere tractor.

Hannah in a rocking chair, just her size.

The practical purpose of this hat is to protect my fair-skinned baby from the sun. The obvious purpose is that it looks so darn cute on her!

My dad still had the box from his new grill and had the brilliant idea of cutting doors into it and setting it on the deck for the kids.
Big box + small kids = endless fun!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A day with cousins and a trip to the town fair.

Before I blog about the past two days, I've got to put in a word about today. John offered to take the kids (all three of them) out of the house for the day so that I could have a day to myself - resting, reading, praying, or anything else enjoyable that I normally couldn't do with the kids around. Believe it or not, I was a little reluctant to let them all leave without me. I thought maybe they could drop me off somewhere in the park to read and then get me later or maybe it would be ok if John left Hannah with me since she still takes 2 naps a day. But John was firm in his decision to take all three and to leave me at home to make sure I truly got a break. For those of you with small children, you know this is no small thing! My 3 kids are ages 5, 3 and 1 and more than a handful!

So after they left, wouldn't you know I ended up cleaning the powder room and the kitchen, sweeping and mopping the floor, changing the bed sheets, doing laundry, and picking up toys? My rationale for all of this work was that it is something I can do SO much more efficiently when the kids are not around (and all of it was desperately needed), plus I have an easier time unwinding and relaxing when all of those things are done.

After I finished all of that, I took a folding chair, my Bible, my journal, and a glass of water outside to sit, read, pray and journal amidst chirping birds, trees rustling in the wind and absolutely perfect weather. What a treat to be able to do all of that without any interruptions! It was true nourishment for my soul (also desperately needed). It was such a luxury to be able to stop, meditate, soak in, and journal about what I was reading rather than just rushing through a passage trying to glean some ounce of wisdom for the day. I found myself dwelling on the excellencies of Christ, the glorious riches of our salvation, and the eternal comfort and hope that we have in Christ - rather than hurriedly blurting out my repetitive requests for patience and wisdom or simply running down the list of prayer requests for other people. I know my prayers for others are better when I have spent time focusing on who the Lord is, what He has accomplished, and His power that is at work within us.

So for those of you who heard John or me ask you to pray that our vacation time would be a time of spiritual refreshment and renewal, first, thank-you! and second, know that your prayers are being answered!

Ok, on to the previous two days...
Tuesday evening we went over to my sister's house for dinner and family time. Our kids got to play with their cousins, whom they only see once a year. I find this pretty sad since a BIG part of my growing up years was spent playing and spending time with most of my cousins (my American cousins, that is). Now we all live so far apart, which is a shame especially since my kids are approximately the same age as their cousins. Ah well, we do enjoy the time we have together and we are definitely thankful that we can spend a whole month together every year. Pictures of our time together can be seen below.

Since we couldn't get all 5 cousins to sit still for a picture together, Melanie and John had to step in and corral the 3-year-olds. Melanie and Tim have a nice, big and beautiful backyard for the kids to run around as well as a playground set, so they had a great time.

They also have a big, screened-in porch as a play area for the kids (no, I'm not jealous at all...). Here are Elijah and Christopher posing for a picture.

Here are the 1-year olds, Hannah and Elijah playing together.

Elijah and Hannah got to go for a wagon ride around the backyard after supper.

Christopher and Sarah were more than eager to scarf down their lemon slush cake (mmmmm) while Luke patiently waited for his piece.

Last night we took the kids to the Phoenixville Dogwood Fair, which is held annually in May. I haven't been to the Dogwood fair since I was a teenager and I must say it was a much different experience going as a parent! I felt eons apart from all the teenagers who crowded the place.

Here are Christopher and Sarah posing with Paw Paw (my mom) before entering the fairgrounds.

While we were standing in a LONG line for a giant jungle gym, Sarah exclaimed that she wanted to go in the bumper cars after observing them for a good while. So John took her and she had a BLAST, as you can see by the picture above. They made it in and out of the bumper cars before we got through the first line.

My mom refused and John didn't think he could, so I took my pregnant self up into the jungle gym with Christopher and Sarah. It had a spider man net to climb, a bounce house, slides, suspension bridges, punching bags to push through, and a long, long slide at the end (pictured above). The kids loved it! It was the only 'ride' that Christopher was eager to try since it was familiar. He is definitely not my dare devil. Sarah, on the other hand, wanted to try out every ride at the fair and would say, "Let's do it again!" at the end of each one. She didn't realize that we had to go back to the end of the line in order to do that.

Here is Sarah "driving" the car that just went around in circles.

We finally coaxed Christopher to try out the bumper cars. He would only do it if I went with him, so again, I got my pregnant self into this thing and drove around like a maniac. Thankfully, he enjoyed himself.