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.

March Merriment

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The Easter Bunny came

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Easter egg hunt

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Remy stole the Easter basket

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Natalie had so much fun sleeping in my old tent in her bedroom

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A kind friend let Natalie ride her big horse

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It was her first time to ride bareback

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After a few hours of playing hard Natalie and her friend crawled into bed

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The view of the pear trees from Natalie’s bedroom window was stunning

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When it was Natalie’s turn to make snacks we painted clothes pins with lots of fun colors and made these little butterflies

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Instead of birthday gifts, Natalie requested that her friends donate new or gently used books to the “Reach Out and Read” program.  She collected over 70 books.  Here she is dropping them off.

First Dance Competition

In March the Rock City Apprentice Company had their first competition in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Natalie and her wonderful dance friends did a fantastic job.  Their first dance titled “Crusin'” was referred to by the team as the car dance.  Their second dance was titled “I Don’t Dance”… the kids called it the baseball dance.  They did a great job on both dances, but the judges were especially enamoured of the baseball dance.  They received a special judge’s choice “Showstopper Award”for that dance.  The most memorable moment for me was when Natalie came on stage for the baseball dance.  As all of the kids were getting into their starting positions I noticed that Natalie went to the wrong part of the stage.  I was trying with all my might to send her a telepathic message to move to her right.  I don’t think she got my message, but she finally realized that she wasn’t in the right spot.  Natalie quickly ran to her assigned spot which she reached right as the music started.  She jumped right into the dance without getting flustered or even missing a beat.  I was so proud of her.

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.

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

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Trying to make a heart with her hands

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Natalie wanted a kissing photo

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Hiking girl with her Newfs

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Pinnacle Mountain in the background

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

Meet Our Newest Family Members

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Remy and Riley are Ragdoll kittens that are currently 5 1/2 and 5 months old (respectively).  Ragdoll cats are the second largest breed of domestic cats and are often referred to as “gentle giants”… just like our Newfoundland dogs are.  Remy is going to be a big boy… at least 20 pounds (we named him after a huge sweet Newf that we know). He already weighs more than 8 pounds and he eats a ton!!  His nickname is Mr. Big.  Riley’s nickname is Little Bit.  I’m guessing he was the runt of the litter.  He will still be bigger than an average cat, but much smaller than Remy. The boys are double first cousins (moms are sisters, dads are brothers).  They were born 18 days apart and became best friends after Remy came to Riley’s aid as Riley was being picked on by his sisters.  Remy was going to be a show/breeder cat in Japan but his breeder changed her mind about sending him overseas.  Riley had already been adopted by a couple who had to return him after 3 days because the husband turned out to be highly allergic to cats.  Lots of people were interested in adopting Remy, but Anne let us have him because she really wanted to keep the best friends together.  They are both very sweet but very different in personality.  Remy is more laid back and Riley is quite wild at times.  Natalie loves them and plays with them every day. Many thanks to Anne Paul of Cajun Ragdolls for these sweet kitties.

I introduced the cats to Katie and Louie one time. Louie was his usual laidback sweet self.  When he was laying down on the floor the kittens thought he was ok, but the moment he stood up they got a bit scared.  I have no doubt that with some supervised visits the kittens and Louie could become fast friends.  However, I do have doubts about Katie.  She was a bit overly exuberant when she met the kittens.  It’s not that she did anything wrong at all, but I saw too much excitement in her eyes. Between Katie’s enthusiasm and the wild antics of the kittens I was worried that the combination of the three of them might be a recipe for disaster.  There is no telling what kind of trouble they could get into.

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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.

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

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Natalie’s First ever spelling test

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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

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In the lobby of school after the lesson is done.

 

January 2016

Yay… I’m almost caught up on blog posts.  At least I’m in the right year now.

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Playing sleepy time with her dolls & animals

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Nat still sleeps with Cindy & Betsy every night – she’s had them since she was 2

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Going to a Bday celebration

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Snow Day!!!

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Her handwriting has improved so much this school year

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Putting the barbies to bed…note one is sleeping in the bathtub

In Mid January Natalie was in a dance showcase which was mostly an opportunity for the dancers to do a full dress rehearsal before their first competition in March.  She had a great time being around all of her dancing friends.  Natalie also gets a big thrill anytime she gets to wear makeup which is only when she is performing on stage or during Halloween.

Natalie and friends celebrated her 6th birthday at River City Gymnastics.  Everyone had a wonderful time jumping and playing on all of the fun equipment.  I’m so grateful that Natalie has such a sweet group of friends.

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The birthday girl is about to jump into the foam pit.

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The Birthday Crew!

Holiday Season of 2015

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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.

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

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The whole clan (except for absent members)

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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.