[Blowing out the candles on her birthday breakfast]
[Cake at school]
Before all of Josie's birthday events, we first all went to visit my brother and sister-in-law for the first time ever to see baby Benjamin. Josie had a good time poking around their apartment, seeing their cats, and holding Benjamin :) After that, we headed over to our friends' house for a July 4th barbecue. Ryan and I were the meanest parents ever because we either didn't bring the girls' swimsuits or we just didn't feel like changing them (I don't remember now, but I'm afraid to say I suspect it was the latter). So Josie and Audra didn't get to play in the kiddie pool there, but they hung out around the pool and splashed from the side, which was probably better anyway. There were some older kids playing in it and being pretty rough, so the girls were still able to play a little bit from the sidelines but were kept clear of all the roughhousing.
So that was our July 4th this year. It was a good one (despite all the rain, which made the barbecue a bit of a muddy wet mess), not the least because it was the furthest from our house that we had all gone together since Audra was born... and the world didn't end! Josie did great in the car for the around two hours total we drove around that day, and Audra only fussed a bit at the end of the drive. The feeling of freedom and a weight lifting off our shoulders (or mine, at least) was nearly palpable. We were FREEEE! ... and so I immediately started simultaneously 1) worrying about the much longer drive we were going to undertake two weeks later to the lake, and 2) planning where else we could go. :)
Josie was just so excited for her birthday. It's so fun seeing things through her eyes, to see what she's excited about, and to see what sticks with her now that she's starting to bank some longer-term memories. She had been talking about her birthday for weeks, and on the magical day that she was finally turning 4, I woke her up and told her happy birthday, and her first question was if she was 4 now. I confirmed she was, and she immediately asked if she was still 4 :)
Ryan and I both stayed home from work the day before her party so we could clean up the house and yard and get food (and her birthday present) ready. We knew it would be a lot of work to have the party at our house, but it still ended up being an absurd amount of work. We both were busy the whole day (with only a few breaks for me to pump and for us to go to lunch), and we still didn't quite finish with our whole list. It turns out we got a bit far behind on yardwork and housework :-\ But everything came together in the end, and I think the party went really well... except for a few notable exceptions, like the fact that the bounce house/water slide was missing the pool at the end for the first couple of hours (until the owner's mom and dad came back to set it up), so we had to jury-rig a solution at the bottom (involving rubber mats, a tarp, and I believe some duct tape) so kids wouldn't get hurt. The funniest moment may have been when at least three people at the same time were taking pictures of how Ryan organized his tools (seen in the background of the fourth picture below) ;)
[Josie being slightly mopey because she so desperately was ready for cupcakes]
[I somehow don't have any pictures of Josie with her geo-dome, so here's part of it with Audra]
Turning 4 apparently did not preclude Josie from being a cat, since she continued that trend and maybe half the time at home she communicates only with meows. We also have to refer to her by her kitty cat name then, if we have any hope of her listening to us, which apparently alternates between "Kalorinta Bedoris" or "Allie". She also got little toy cats for her birthday then, naturally, and she happily played by herself for ages, although playing with the cats apparently involved lots of squealing and agitated meowing ;) She got a Peter Pan book for her birthday too, to Ryan's chagrin, since she chooses that for her bedtime story just about every night ;)
Other notes as Josie turns 4, just to remember how things are right now: her normal bedtime routine starts at 7:15pm, with cleanup time, then teeth brushing, pajamas, and books, with her in bed just after 8pm. Ryan normally lays with her for a little while and then leaves her to fall asleep on her own. We wake her up at 6:50am during the week, and she sleeps in to between 7-8am on weekends. She still naps for 1-2 hours at home, although hardly ever at school now. We've also started letting Josie out of our sight more, which is a little nerve-wracking, but I guess all part of her getting more independent :) So she gets to close herself in her room for a while without us checking in on her (too much), and gets a few minutes to herself alone in the garage or outside. Her favorite is getting to play on her playset by herself in the rain :)
Her 4-year well child appointment at the pediatrician went fine. She got her final doses of the DTaP and polio vaccines (yay!), and measured in at 41 3/4" tall and 40.4lbs (~90th percentile for both). She also had her vision checked for the first time, and had 20/25 vision. Ryan took her and didn't report back anything notable, so I will assume she's meeting all the appropriate milestones :) She is able to recognize and write her full name and a handful of other words, and sometimes shows interest in sounding out words and reading. It did blow her mind when she saw me reading one day, though, since she was so confused when she asked me what I was doing. I said I was reading, and she responded, "But I can't hear you!!" I never really thought how strange that must look when all of the reading she's familiar with is out loud. She helped me change Audra's diaper once and brush her teeth - Audra was so good for her, and I think Josie had fun taking care of her sister. Josie also likes to pick out clothes to match Audra whenever possible :)
The other big event for July was our trip to Lake Gaston. Just as a note, my intention is for Audra's updates to be able to stand alone from these updates for the rest of the family, since my hope is to eventually print out books for each of the girls so they have a written (tangible) account of at least their early childhood. So there is usually some overlap between Audra's updates and the general "monthly" updates, and I suspect this will be more obvious than normal for this and the next few posts as I recount the same events (mainly travel-related) focused on Audra and then the rest of the family. Just in case anyone notices ;)
Anyway, so we went to the lake, which is the first vacation Josie remembers taking. She was just so excited about going on vacation, and eagerly counted down the days until we left. However, there appears to still be some confusion about what "vacation" is, since I'm pretty sure she thought the house we stayed at was named Vacation (as she announced upon our arrival, "It's Vacation!"). Ah well.
Josie did fine in the car, mostly playing games on her phone, and while she did start feeling sick at one point, she fell asleep as soon as she agreed to close her eyes for a while and so we managed to avert that disaster. As I already mentioned, Audra did well in the car too, but I did laugh when we were packing up and I asked Josie if she wanted me to grab her headphones for the car ride, and she said "no, if Audra cries, I'll just cry too".
Josie had so much fun in the water - she wanted to go in the lake every day all day, and did super well with her puddle jumper floaties. There was lots of Peter Pan play, with her normally pretending to be Tiger Lily and needing "saving"... which led to lots of discussions of trying to have her distinguish between pretend distress and when she actually needed help in the water. She took off to swim to Never Land (or, alternately, Canada) several times, and went out in the kayak too. She had lots of fun playing with her cousins, laughing so hard at the nightly air hockey playing sessions. She bounced around between different rooms, sleeping on the trundle in her Aunt Alyson's room or with Ryan in our room. Poor thing, though - she's not the best sleeping buddy at the moment, since she apparently has night terrors. Every night was marked by her yelling, screaming, and kicking... which she slept through, at least, but it woke us all up.
[Gathering around the electronic device]
Second to getting to play in the water all day was probably the nightly dessert, in terms of what Josie liked the most about vacation. I guess we technically have dessert most nights at home, if you count anything we tend to eat after dinner as "dessert" (e.g., fruit, almonds), but ice cream put things on a whole new level for her.
[Running off her sugar high]
[Dirty hair and/or lake water made her hair have the coolest ringlets]
For some non-Josie updates, I also had my 35th birthday while we were at the lake. Probably my favorite present was some time to myself, since Ryan insisted I take a kayak out on the lake. I ended up just sitting out on the water in a cove filled with lilypads, reveling in the stillness and silence (such a rare occurrence at this point in my life!), except for the sound of the water against the sides of the kayak and dripping from the oars.
The garden also did well in July... well, except for pretty much all of the cane fruit (blackberries and raspberries) finally dying. The only two blackberry plants still alive are the ones we planted away from the trellis (since we ran out of room there) in the "crap" dirt (i.e., unamended clay).
[Half a week's harvest: cucumbers, okra, tomatoes, cucuzza squash, green beans]
[Josie and her adoring sister]