Less than 3 weeks...

As excited as I am for this next step in our lives, I'm almost reluctant to look at the calendar. Mike leaves for Basic Training in just less than three weeks, so we are really soaking up our daddy time. We will definitely have fun brushing up on our letter-writing skills (something I should have been better at keeping up on anyway). We haven't talked to the kids about his leaving yet. They know "daddy is a soldier" and we've talked about what being a soldier means, but we still think it's too early to tell them that he'll be gone for a while. Brooklyn would most likely have quite a bit of anxiety if we told her too soon.

I'm anxious to have more of our questions answered once he gets there (like if/when/where we will move!). I'll just be gradually packing things up while he's gone and I guess we'll see where we end up :-).


Holiday Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2009 was a wonderfully wild year. Life is an adventure, and we don't intend to miss out. Our journey this year has brought us across the States and further.

Spring -
On March 29th, we said good-bye to our home in Mankato, MN and to many friends and family. Our purpose: to get a Master's degree from Seminary. Our school: Southwestern Baptist Theological in Fort Worth, Texas. I promise you, driving through the night across the States with two toddlers in the car wasn't easy (not to mention wiping away the tears from a dreaded good-bye to some of our very favorite people). Our spring Texas experience was warm - the kids enjoyed playing outside every single day in the beautiful weather, Jill got to go through the morning sickness of this pregnancy without the support of family baby-sitters around, and I landed my first paying church job. Living in campus housing we were only 3 miles from the zoo -- so we became members of the Fort Worth Zoo, where Brooklyn and Jeremiah are able to let their imaginations run wild. Brookie & Miah have become the best of friends, it is so incredible to watch them play and interact together. They are 20 months apart, and they love each other so much. It makes me think about how much I really do love Stephanie and Nathan, and how there is nothing that can compare to the deep relationship of siblings.

Summer -
HOT. Living in a different part of the country is a wonderful learning experience, and I would reccommend to all. As Jill's baby belly grew, so did the daily high temperature. Many back to back days in the triple digits. The summer also provided another move for us. My new job was a Minister Intern at a church in Plano, TX. The hour long commute was helpful to me for learning Greek in the car, but I missed the time with Jill and the kids. So on July 1st, we moved into our current home in Carrollton, TX. We are now able to be only 4 miles from the church and learn what it means to be a Minister's family. The internship at Prestonwood Baptist Church was an incredible experience. The church has a staggering 29,000 members and provided us with daily opportunities for impact and for learning. As I kept busy learning Greek and working, Jill teaches piano lessons out of the home and enjoy's her ever changing days as a stay-at-home mom. Our new home provides a fenced in back yard where Brooklyn loves to utilize the rope swing and the trees for climbing, wereas Jeremiah loves to run and hit home-runs! We also had the priviledge to learn how to exterminate cockroaches - gross, gross, gross.

Autumn -
The weather cooled off, but was just perfect for a Minnesota family to enjoy the outdoors daily. We have gone on many family walks, including the "Graham Family Flashlight Walk" around the neighborhood before bed time, and I have been able to grill out most every single Saturday and Sunday. We have been blessed to enjoy so many family and learning moments this year as we continue to grow and change. Our favorite moment this fall came at 9:28pm on 11/09/09. Savannah Kate Graham joined us at 9 lbs and 12 oz, measuring 21.5 inches long. What a beauty she is. (I even got to snuggle with her for a nap today). Both Brooklyn and Jeremiah adore her, smooch her, and talk about her often. It is so incredible to watch Jill mother Savannah along with Brooklyn and Jeremiah -- it is quite clear how much she loves being a mom. Also, our Thanksgiving was just perfect, my parents visited from Minnesota (for the 2nd time this year) and the kids couldn't stop hugging them and playing with them.

Winter -
Savannah is starting to be awake a little more often and is sharing more smiles with us. Brooklyn and Jeremiah are both quickly expanding their vocabulary and entertaining us with their questions and comments. We are lucky to be getting ready for a few more visitors: Jill's Family, and my siblings Stephanie and Nathan along with his bride Heidi are all coming for a visit in January. We love our experience here in Texas, but we love our family and friends much more. Lastly, we are gearing up for another big change - the Army. I enlisted for active duty for 4 years starting on January 25th, 2010. I know, the adventure continues. Many have asked the obvious - what about school, your family, etc. The short answer is that we are continuing to pursue God's leadership and guidance in our lives. We believe in our God, our country, in all of you, and that this is part of our overall big picture plan. We don't have all the puzzle pieces to the big picture yet, and this next "puzzle piece" may look a little rough around the edges, but it truly does fit. We believe we will learn and experience much - and if we approach it with the correct attitude, we can grow abundantly from this future journey. It will also provide us with the financials for school, as we plan to continue my 3 year Master's degree at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN.

Today - I am relaxing for this last day of my Christmas break and I am going to grill for dinner, Jill is dying diaper covers (she cloth diapers the kids), Brooklyn is playing with her new dollhouse accessories, Jeremiah is analyzing his new train set, and Savannah is sleeping in her swing and keeping warm with a Boston Red Sox blanket (thanks Uncle Nathan and Aunt Heidi).

We wish you a wonderful 2010. We challenge you to make time to read an extra book or two this year. We hope you take life's curveballs as the adventure and opportunity for learning they are. We pray for you to grow closer in your relationship with God. We love you and miss you.

May God bless you and keep you,
The Graham Family - Savannah, Jeremiah, Brooklyn, Jill, and Michael


Christmas Eve

We went to the Chistmas Eve service at church last night, and can you believe it was snowing! It had been snowing all day and actually accumulated on the ground (very much news-worthy for Texans). There wasn't nearly as large of a turn-out at church because of the weather, but our family sure soaked up as much as possible. It felt like a 'true' Christmas and the weather made us feel quite at home.

Brooklyn had been asking (for weeks) if it would snow soon, why there wasn't already snow, and if it would even snow at all in Texas, so she was thrilled to be making snow balls last night. Jeremiah, on the other hand, wasn't sure whether or not he really enjoyed having them thrown at him, but he did have fun (until his fingers touched it, to which he said, "Mama, teen my hands peez").
Savannah decided not to run around in the snow last night. She was much more content sucking on her fist (which, as of lately, has been much preferred over her paci).


Miss Independant

Brooklyn continues to become more and more independant by the day. She's even begun to think that she knows best. Lately, this is how some of our conversations pan out:

"Time for dinner, sweetie"
"Well mom, I'm reading a story"

"Brooklyn, let's pick up your barbies now that we're done playing with them"
"Mommy, you can do it. I'm playing with my doll house"

"Brookie, two more times on the rope swing, but then it's time to go inside"
"Mommy, it's okay with me that I swing four more times because I'm fours years old"

What a hoot. Her most obvious act of independance is clearly her outfits. I want her to be able to pick her own clothes out. The only times I step in to intervene is when she's not dressed appropriately for the weather. I really do find it amusing to see what she has picked out for the day (though it's typically about four times a day that she changes outfits, haha). This is what she picked out to wear for our walk yesterday. For the love :-).


Home Run!

Brooklyn, Jeremiah, and I had a lot of fun playing in the back yard this morning. They never grow tired of the rope swing, climbing that tree, or playing on the slide. It's so fun to see them running around back there, often in their own worlds. We played some fun games of chase this morning, and even hit a few good home runs! I'm officially not jealous of Minnesota weather :-)

Savannah was also giving some really big smiles while Brooklyn and Jeremiah were resting. She held them back while the camera was out, but she sure is starting to acquire some conversational skills. What a beauty.

"Teento Yiddo Staw"

This was taken on November 1st, but I just figured out how to upload videos. Jeremiah was so cute that night. He was all snuggly in his jammies, singing so many songs to himself. He was a little apprehensive about singing more songs once I grabbed the camera, but I was able to capture his sweet little voice :-). It's a little dark because only his lamp was on (he was just climbing into bed for the night).


"It Was Really Silly"

Brooklyn had her 4 year well child check up today. I was impressed with how thorough her pediatrician and the nurses were. After what I would think is the routine part of the exam, they had her look at a chart from down the hall to test her eye sight(though we obviously prefer Uncle Nathan ;-) ), they tested her hearing, and even had her give a urine sample. Brooklyn had to call Daddy after that appointment to say (through her giggles), "Daddy, I go'ed potty in a cup! It was really silly".

She's getting so tall (I'm curious to see how her height compares to her cousin, Hadley). She's 38.5", which puts her in the 25th percentile (yep, not much like her sister) and 33lbs, putting her at around the 30th percentile. She'll often tell us out of the blue, "I have a little Steck in me". She's right. She hasn't made it above the 25th percentile yet. I don't think she'll be a tall girl.

We're so proud of the beautiful little girl she has become. She's such a blessing to everyone!

I looked back at my baby book and had Carolyn looked at Mikes. We didn't have records of us at age 4, but these are our closest comparisons:

Mike (age 3)- 36" tall, 29lbs
(age 5.5)- 41.75" tall, 38lbs

Me (age 2.5)- 36.75" tall, 36lbs (Holy cow!!)


One Month

I find it hard to believe that Savannah is already one month old. She has been giving us lots of smiles during the day, and keeping mama well-entertained at night :-). We very rarely hear cries from her. She typically 'grunts' when she's hungry. It's so cute, I wish I could imitate it to tell others, but my noises tend to come out a little less cute. I was able to get a few pictures of her with her eyes open, but she spent the better part of the day sleeping.

Brooklyn, Jeremiah, and I took advantage of that time and played outside in what the weather man described as "the lowest temperatures of the year!" (it was about 32 degrees at the time, ha!). We bundled in hats and mittens, but probably would have been scolded by the 'locals' for being under-dressed.


A Perfect Afternoon

It was beautiful out today (I think the high was 61 degrees)! To be honest, the kids and I really haven't been out of the house all that often since Savannah was born. It's either been rainy, chilly (Texas chilly ;-) ), or I've just been too exausted to do much (mostly the latter). So today, after a nice nap and a delicious cup of coffee, we took a walk! I wore Savannah and Brookie and Miah were in the double jogger. "Mommy, it's so beautiful!" Brookie said as we passed by this 'creek' in the picture. She's right. It really was a perfect day to finally get out of the house!

During our walk, a nice elderly passer-by expressed her concern for the kids' health in this "cold weather" (even though they had long sleeves and were covered in blankets). I assured her that us migrators from Minnesota felt very comfortable in this weather ;-). The funny thing is that right before she said anything, I had just been thinking, "I wonder if Savannah is too warm". Hehe.


Oh My, She's Grown!

Savannah had a follow-up appointment today with her pediatrician, Dr. Olobia. I really like the kids' doctor. He's great with the kids, always has very detailed handouts for each developmental stage (which I'm pretty sure he writes himself), so friendly and knowledgable. Plus, he has a fun Jamaican(/I'm really not sure at all) kind of accent.

Savannah is still looking great and all her bloodwork came back normal. I did have him run a Pulse Oximetry on her. There have been a couple times lately that her right hand turned purple. It was while I was dressing her, so I knew it could very well have been just that part of her clothing was cutting off some sort of circulation in the process, but I wanted him to check as long as I was already in the office. It came back normal. He said to watch it cosely. If it happens again or more frequently then he'll do extensive tests, but otherwise to assume her clothing was pinching her arm while I was dressing her.

Carolyn and I were convinced she had gained a little weight while they were visiting, but I would have never guessed that she gained almost a pound in just under two weeks! Today (she's three weeks old exactly) she weighed in at 10 lbs 7oz and is 22.25" long! Wow, Savannah! Looks like those top-of-the hour nightly nursing's are really doing something for you! You are so beautiful, sweet Savannah.

I wish I would have captured a picture, but today was also the first time she smiled at me (and it wasn't in her sleep)! She has the most beautiful facial expressions. How did we get so lucky as to be her parents?? The Graham family would not be complete without her.


A Wonderful Thanksgiving

We were so lucky to have my in-laws here for Thanksgiving. Mike and I actually had never cooked a turkey before (or made stuffing or yams or gravy...), so Gordy and Carolyn used this as a teaching experience. SO fun! They even brought family recipes so that we can continue having delicious Thanksgiving meals "Graham-style".

They sure did get a nice greeting. As soon as we heard a knock on the door, Jeremiah and Brooklyn sprinted down the hall as fast ad the could, swung open the front door and literally leapt into their arms with squeals. I thought they'd never let go. I'll keep that beautiful image in my head forever. They are absolutely in love with their grandparents.

Brooklyn was literally attached at the hip to grandpa. (She refused to let go of him even while he was cooking!). It was the greatest thing in the world to watch. We really miss being close to them.

Jeremiah put on some great shows for them by dancing to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, singing "You and me do-in fissin' in a dawt...tountin' staws..."

And Savannah was more often than not found nestled into grandma's arms. I really only held her when she was nursing. I'm so glad she got to have so many grandma Carolyn kisses (she smelled like every flavor of chapstick Carolyn was wearing while they were here! :-) )

The weather was really nice while they were here, so we spent some time at the park. This park is just down the street from us, so the kids really enjoyed showing grandma and grandpa where they spend their time while I'm teaching.

We also went to this really neat train exhibit (thanks to Kathy and Suresh!) in Dallas. Jeremiah especially loved it. There was so much detail put into these models, it was amazing. We even got some fun hats for our little tour.

And to end our very full, exciting day we took grandma and grandpa for a little trolly ride through Dallas. Mike, Brooklyn, and Jeremiah are waiting for the trolly to show up here. They sure love their daddy!

We sure had a great Thanksgiving, but we miss you already grandma and grandpa!


Proud Mama to Three

We had a relaxing afternoon today while mommy got a little camera happy :-). I can't stop thinking how beautiful our children are.


Happy 4th Birthday Brooklyn!

We are so proud of the beautiful little girl she has become. Time has slipped though our fingers. Just 4 years ago, she came home with us...a 7lb 9oz bundle of love. We are truly blessed to be called her parents.


Nothing Cuter Than a Fluffy Butt

I'm very impressed with my flats. I would have had many blowouts by now if she were in disposables. These seem to hold everything in! (And they are so adorable on her!)


First Doctor's Appointment

Savannah had her first doctor's appointment this morning. She's 9 days old today. They wanted to see her one week after being discharged from the hospital so they could check her bilirubin levels and listen to her heart (she was born with a heart murmur). Her bloodwork came back clear and she has outgrown her heart murmur (praise God!). She weighed in at 9lb 8oz (4oz less than her birth weight), putting her in the 91st percentile! They took her length and I could not believe that she has grown a half an inch already! She is 22in long, putting her in the 98th percentile. I shouldn't be too surprised since my side of the family is all tall, but it still amazes me since Brooklyn and Jeremiah have always been on the petite side (especially in length). Her newborn diapers (cloth) only fit for the first week. She now wears flats. And today I need to pull the next size up of her clothes from the garage. She definitely skipped over newborn size clothing and only a few of her 0-3 month clothing fit her. She really doesn't even have any rolls, but is so long that the shoulders of her little outfits are pulled off, her little chest shows, and the sleeves barely reach her wrists. I'm anxious to see if she continues to stay a tall child from the Lang genes or if more of the Steck genes stay in her :-).

Best Friends

We got home from getting groceries this morning (my first outting with all three kids, by the way), and I let Brooklyn and Jeremiah play right by the front door by themselves while I was putting the groceries away. They play so well together. Brooklyn loves telling Jeremiah all kinds of stories. She jabbers away and I occassionally hear an "oh yea?" or "otay" from Jeremiah. I peeked around the corner to see them like this. Again, as soon as I took the picture Jeremiah said, "Mama, no pictures". They melt my heart.


Sleepy Head

I'm almost getting concerned for my potential sleepless night tonight. Savannah has been very contently sleeping all day. She's bound to wake up just as I'm slipping into bed, and I know she's going to want a play date! Fortunately, I have three delicious flavors of coffee creamer choices to wake me up in the morning. As sleepy as I am in the groggy hours of the night, I can't resist snuggling her. What a perfect way for a mama to wake up (at any hour of the night!).

No Mommies Allowed

Mike was grilling dinner while I ran a quick errend this evening. I came home to find Brooklyn reading stories to Jeremiah in his room (perched on his books next to his bed). As soon as I walked in, Brooklyn said "Mommy, I'm reading stories to Jeremiah. He likes it. I'm a good reader. He doesn't want to talk to you". Wanting to laugh, I said "Oh, did you guys want to play by yourselves right now"? "Yes, we want to read stories all by ourselves. You should leave", says Brooklyn. I left for a couple minutes, but couldn't resist sneaking back in to take a picture of them. As soon as I took this picture, Jeremiah looked up and said, "Mommy, no pictures". What a hoot. I love our kids.

Brooklyn the Monkey

This weekend, Brooklyn had so much fun swinging on the rope swing in the back yard. She's typically our cautious child, but this weekened she decided to try something new. She had daddy move the picnic table closer to the rope so she could stand on the table and swing about 16 feet (daddy's estimate) to land in a pile of leaves. Unbelievable! She is so strong. She was so anxious to get back to her rope swing this morning that she ran out back before she even got out of her jammies.