August 2016 ~ A Banner Month!

Besides getting her ears pierced and beginning the first grade (mentioned in previous posts), Natalie had a few other significant events take place during the month of August.

Last year Natalie had a great time being part of the Rock City Dance Apprentice Company. This year she decided that she wanted to do more dancing so she auditioned for the RCDC full company. She worked so hard on her dancing all summer and had a great time auditioning with her friends. The same day Natalie got her ears pierced we got the good news that she had earned a spot in the full company! Audition pics are below.img_4220img_4241img_4276img_4202img_4279img_42552208x1656-jpeg-070738c1e34c48708995e98407be0769img_4204
On ear piercing day we went to the Museum of Discovery where Nat had a fun time lying on a bed of nails. That’s where we got the exciting news that she was accepted into the full dance company (see her happy face below – the one with white tile in the background). After the Discovery Museum we went to a nearby wildlife museum that had lots of cool fish tanks and interesting displays.img_0102img_0115img_4356img_4309img_4301img_0107img_0127img_0130img_0139

A few days later Natalie visited the same 2 museums again with her favorite twin friends.  It was great to reconnect with them a couple of days before school starts.  Natalie was so excited to find out that one of the twins is in her class this year.img_0188img_0206img_0227img_0214

I haven’t posted many pictures of Louie lately.  He has been having a rough time for the last couple of years.  His allergies have been absolutely terrible.  He spends most of his time wearing a cone to prevent him from covering his entire body with self-inflicted sores.  He has been getting allergy shots for several months now.  I don’t think they have helped his itchy skin much, but they have helped to clear up his ears which were previously a horrible mess.    In the pics below Louie is finding great joy in eating a pinecone.  I don’t know why he loves them so, but since he chews them up throughly before swallowing them I just let him chow down.  It’s one of the few things that makes him happy these days.  Louie will be 9 years old in January.img_4497

Natalie and one of her favorite dance friends… she is lucky to have such a sweet group of girls to dance with.  She is dancing 4 days a week now for a total of 6 1/2 hours.  She is studying ballet, hip hop, tap, contemporary, jazz and lyrical.  img_4489

Ready for tap class to begin… Nat’s teacher told her tonight that she has great taps and asked her to demonstrate to the class.13958126_10210204064361668_8952057759834831232_o

Two days after school started Natalie had to have 4 teeth pulled!!!!  Yikes!  She was a trooper though as always.  She got a little sad when she looked in the mirror after coming home.  She teared up a bit and said “Mama, I look creepy.”  She had 4 bloody holes in her gums and 2 new teeth coming up in the wrong place behind them.  The next day though her mouth looked so much better.  A week later her teeth had already shifted into the right place.img_4437

Behind our house at sunsetimg_4364

Playing dodgeball at a b-day partyimg_0233

Dressing up Remy.  This kitty is so laid back…he’s up for anything.img_0155

Meet the teacher night the week before school.  Natalie LOVES her new teacher.  She is so happy to go to school every day this year.img_0178

She also got to visit her sweet kindergarten teacher from last year.img_0182

Water fun… only a few days of swimming weather left.img_4602img_4578img_4571img_4550

Near the end of August we got a kayak and finally started exploring the watery world behind our house.  The lake behind our home connects to a swampy area which connects to the Little Maumelle.  Each time we go out we explore a little further.  During our first journey out a big blue heron flew over our heads.  Amazing!img_4469img_4501img_4502img_4513img_4519img_4517img_0703img_4484


May 2016

The Seven Hollows Trail

In April, Katie, Natalie and I hiked part of the Seven Hollows Trail.  It was about 2 1/2 miles of very rocky, hilly trail.  Nat had her hiking poles and she rocked the hike. The stone arch bridge was one of Gary and my favorite places.  Natalie and I enjoyed getting to connect with him through the natural beauty that he so loved.  Click on the pictures below for captions and a larger version.

Rocky Valley Hiking Trail

We recently hiked the Rocky Valley Trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park for the third time.  This time we also added the East Quarry Spur Trail that goes up a steep hill to a beautiful overview of Pinnacle Mountain.  The whole hike was about 2.5 miles over hilly, rocky terrain.  Nat was a trooper and did an amazing job aided by her hiking poles.


Katie couldn’t wait to go hiking… she jumped in the car 30 minutes before it was time to leave



Trying to make a heart with her hands


Natalie wanted a kissing photo


Hiking girl with her Newfs



Pinnacle Mountain in the background


Natalie, Katie and Louie are the perfect hiking companions.  We have such great times together!

February 2016

Happy Chinese New Year!  Natalie and I celebrated with friends at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.  Over 99% of the people there were of Chinese ethnicity and were speaking Chinese.  It was a very special event with lots of yummy food and great entertainment.  Natalie enjoyed spending time with 2 girls who are in her kindergarten class at school and making a new friend.  The new friend is the little girl in the white sweater below.  We ran into her the following weekend during Natalie’s first ice skating session.  That sweet girl spent over an hour and a half assisting Natalie (who was very wobbly on her ice skates) around the rink.

On the 100th day of school students were asked to dress like they were 100 years old.  This was Natalie’s interpretation.

Also in February, Katie and I accompanied Natalie on her first visit to a nursing home.  It was a place Katie and I had visited probably over 50 times in the past, and I finally felt like Natalie was old enough to go with us.  I’m so used to Katie and Louie getting tons of attention during these therapy dog visits.  This visit was especially interesting and fun since I had not one but two gorgeous girls with me.  The residents seemed to split their attention pretty equally between my precious daughter, Natalie and my gentle giant Newfoundland, Katie.  Both girls were on their best behavior and brightened up so many people’s day during our 2 hour visit.  Natalie acted as my little ambassador knocking on doors and checking to see who might be interested in visiting with her large dog friend.  The lady below was so happy to meet Natalie and asked if she could give her a hug.  It was one of the sweetest moments I have ever witnessed.  I love seeing Natalie’s little arm around the lady’s neck in the second picture and the lady’s hands on Nat’s back.



These 3 sisters are great friends and neighbors.  We are so lucky to have them in our lives.


Natalie’s First ever spelling test



Natalie asked to go visit her old preschool class.  While we were there she read a book to the 3 year olds.  They were all entranced and hung on her every word.  Her old teachers were so proud and Natalie was also proud of herself.

Valentine’s Party at Natalie’s school

Wildwood Lantern Festival

It was our first time to attend the annual lantern festival at Wildwood.  It was a beautiful celebration of cultures from all over the world.  Natalie put a floating lantern into the pond near the Greek exhibit.  We ate lots of delicious food and played traditional games from several different countries.  



How to Introduce Yourself to a Stranger Dog

At the beginning of February I took both of the Newfoundlands to visit Natalie’s classroom.  I taught a lesson to the kids on how to introduce yourself to a dog you don’t know.  I left Katie with the front office staff and took Louie to the classroom first.  Since Louie had already been around the children several times I let them practice all of the below steps on him.  Then I traded the dogs out (the office staff was thrilled to watch each of them in turn) and took Katie to meet the kids.  Since Katie was a true stranger dog it was wonderful practice.  Every child had a turn following the 5 steps.  I was so proud of all of the children and of the dogs.  Everyone did a fantastic job.

Introduce to Stranger Dog

PDF version:   Introduce to Stranger Dog


In the lobby of school after the lesson is done.


Holiday Season of 2015



Thanksgiving weekend was a  fun time with family and friends. Highlights were a visit from some of our favorite cousins from Seattle and Natalie’s annual toy donation to Toys For Tots.

After Thanksgiving, in early December of 2015, my Grandmother (Nat’s Great-grandmother) passed away at the age of 97.  She died in the house that my grandfather built over half a century ago surrounded by several members of her beloved family.  Her funeral was perhaps our last big family reunion.  We are an extremely loving bunch and it was so good to be with our amazing family at the old Homeplace where we have many happy memories as children and as adults.  Grandmother will be missed but her loving legacy lives on in all of us.


Natalie made fast friends with one of her grown up cousins.


The whole clan (except for absent members)


First Cousins

We had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends.  We missed Aunt Sissy this year who had come from NY earlier in December for Grandmother’s funeral.  Click on pictures below for descriptions and larger versions.



Fall Fun (2015)

Natalie used part of her savings to purchase a bow and arrow.  The video below shows her first time using it to hit the intended target of the refrigerator.  Her form has improved a lot since, but it was fun to see her excitement and pride.



Our First Hike on the Rocky Valley Trail back in October 2015.  This was when we discovered that Natalie could benefit from hiking poles. We didn’t have any with us at the time, so Nat made do with two sturdy sticks which she kept referring to as her “walkers”.

I love it when Nat says in this video “Trying your best is all we can do.”

Halloween Carnival:


School Days:

More Pumpkin Patch photos


Family Day… 4 Years Together

November 7th, 2015 was the 4th anniversary of our family day.  Natalie and I had an absolutely wonderful, fun filled day together.

An International Cultural Festival at Natalie’s school fell on the same day .  Children with backgrounds from other countries were encouraged to wear their ethnic clothes.  We love the fact that there is a huge amount of diversity at this school. Many countries were represented by the children and by booths at the festival.  We had a great time in each “country” playing games, getting Natalie’s pretend passport stamped, working on a pictorial scavenger hunt, getting Natalie’s name written in 10 different languages, visiting with friends and eating an amazing variety of scrumptious food.  Natalie wore one of her Chinese dresses.  Below she is pictured with two of her best friends… twins of Indian background.

After the festival we went home, changed clothes and loaded up Katie and Louie for a hike on the Rocky Valley Trail of Pinnacle Mountain State Park.  It was Nat’s first time using my hiking poles which I shortened for her.  It helped her immensely on the hilly, rocky terrain.  The four of us had a wonderful time.

Next, we went home where Nat changed into a different Chinese dress. Then we headed to a Japanese Hibachi  restaurant (we decided to do this since we had Chinese food for lunch).  It was Natalie’s first time seeing the Japanese food prepared in elaborate style in front of her.  She was in awe of the “fancy” cooking.

What a wonderful day it was with my dearest, darling Natalie Wanhan.  Natalie tells me almost every day how happy she is that I am her mother and of course I return the sentiment wholeheartedly.  We are so very blessed to have each other.