Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dog training R+ without treats.

When working in the world of dog training, I have, and continue to learn new things.

I currently contract for a company that uses what is known as R+ training (positive reinforcement) methods.
Often times this method is confused for treat based training and can easily turn into that.
A REAL R+ trainer knows that rewards don't always have to be treats.
I personally like to work within the 4 quadrants of dog training.

R+ : The addition of a reward following a desired behavior.
R- When a certain stimulus (usually an aversive stimulus) is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. The likelihood of the particular behavior occurring again in the future is increased because of removing/avoiding the negative consequence.
P+ : Decrease the likelihood of a undesirable behavior reoccurring by adding an unfavorable consequence.
P-: Think of it as adding a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is emitted to decrease future responses.

Sometimes I have to get creative with the quadrants. I am always assessing what actions I am taking or not taking that help my student. 
I work primarily with the R+ quadrant. I caution my clients to wean off the treats quickly. I don't mind using them to help guide, shape and reward desired behaviors especially in the beginning  of training or when in a more distracting environment. 
I want people to know that R+ is NOT treat based, it is reward based. Treats are the "go to" for this method, but they are not the only way. 

Today while showing a client how to use R+ with her new dog she got discouraged at the idea of using treats. She doesn't want a "Treat dependent" dog. Who does?
I was glad she wanted to learn how to train her dog a better way. 
I sat down at her table and decided to explain to her how R+ works, without treats. 
 For dogs, a reward is simply engaging any of their senses. 
On walks, I play the "GO SNIFF" game. If my dog walks nicely by me for a few steps and stops when I stop, then I say "go sniff" and allow him a few seconds to sniff an area nearby. 
I engage his SCENT driven sense. 
This is the reward for my dog using good leash manners. It's as good as any treat. 
 When I am working with my dog on calm behavior, I use eye contact. Ex: My dog lays at my feet and looks up as me as if I hung the moon, I make eye contact with him and softly say "Good boy".  
I have engaged his SIGHT and HEARING senses.
This lets him know "When I am calm at mom's feet, I get kind looks and nice tones."
If he stays calm I will reach down and gently rub his head or shoulders. 
I have engaged his TOUCH sense.  
If I have a yummy piece of cheese and want to share with my dog, I ask him for a skill (SIT, DOWN, WATCH ME, ETC.) and when he responds with the proper behavior, I give him the cheese. 
This engages his TASTE sense. 
I explained these things to my client and she had the warmest smile. This is what she was looking for, a positive way to train her dog without becoming treat dependent. 
Treat dependency is not the goal of R+ training. There is a way to train with them and wean from them quickly and still have a motivated, skilled dog. It is however a common mishap owners run into when using this method.

Dogs are sensory motivated, that is why it's important to watch how your body language and engagement with your dog is affecting him. 
You are always teaching your dog something, even when you're not actively training them. 
I like to share the following story with people about my personal experience with my own dog. It is a great example of how dogs are always learning even when we are not actively teaching. 
My Great Dane is a rescue and when I brought home this 98lb untrained 9 mo. old pup I had a project ahead of me. 
One of the first things I teach is boundaries. My kitchen area has an invisible boundary line that my dog has learned not to cross. I also send my dogs to the crate or another room when we sit down to eat.  When I first brought Kyle home, I kept his crate near the kitchen so he could watch me as I cook, but not be in the kitchen. He quickly bonded to me and wanted to be at my side at ALL times. This exercise of staying out of the kitchen was difficult for Kyle at first. He soon became happy with my eye contact and kind words "Good boy" when he was laying in his crate as I cooked. 
One day I went to the kitchen to start dinner, I microwaved something and as soon as the timer went off I heard Kyle thumping around in his crate. He had put himself up without me giving any cue. 
The microwave alarm had become his cue. I had not actively tried for this particular cue/response, but it showed me, I had been teaching Kyle all along. I had not used a single treat, but I had been generous with my rewards. I was consistent with my boundaries, routine and R+. 
Dogs thrive on this. Like kids, they need to know what is expected of them. They WANT to please and operate as part of the family. 

It is possible to show them the way without treats and still be R+. 



Friday, November 21, 2014

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Mommy, Day.

This is one of my favorite and most horrible mommy moments EVER.
It is my favorite because I can look back and laugh now and it encourages fellow moms. (I hope)
It can be worse and it always gets better.

My son was barely walking. We lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment in rural Iowa U.S.A.
 I had not one, but two foster dogs. A giant Great Dane and tiny hairy "mop" dog.
Hubby worked 10 to 12 hour days, so it was just me, the man child and my canine zoo ALL DAY.
I had been cooking that morning and had a gallon jug of oil that sat on the floor next to the fridge as our kitchen had little storage space.
  I guess I failed to put the lid back on the jug securely after using it, you will see what I mean in a bit.
My son was playing in his walker next to me at the computer. I was doing my usual checking of our ever shrinking account balance, paying bills and of course checking facebook. Facebook is the lonely house wife's connection to the outside world.
 In between my tasks I was keeping an eye on the dogs while folding and putting away laundry. Because I am a multitasking goddess like that.
I left the room for 2 minutes, the dogs were playing in the den together and the boy was in his walker in the dinning room.
I was humming as I put away the laundry and straightened the pillows on the bed. I was probably telling myself what a wonderful house wife I was as I kept our place neat and tidy for my hubby. 

Then I smelled it...

"It" being a pile of chunky liquid covered in something that no doubt escaped from an orifice, be it dog, man child, north end or south I still don't know. I do know the stench it made permeated my entire apartment. I also know that it's smell did not permeate my apartment fast enough because by the time I smelled it, I also heard giggling.
 "NO! NO! NO!" I yelled as I leaped over my neatly made bed and into the threshold that separated the dining room from my bedroom. I was too late.
The boy was playing in it... not just with his hands either. No, that would make this story not worth telling. He was wearing this chunky putrid smelling liquid  and rubbing it in his hair. He had crawled out of his walker. I don't know if he was out of his walker before or after the pile was made or if he himself did it. I just know I was freaking out about pink eye and weird diseases as a result of this nasty stuff being all over him and soon myself. There was no way around it. I had to pick him up and I had to run a bath. The little mop dog had also decided he wanted to play in this pile,  and even tried to eat it because he was just a disgusting little weirdo dog like that. 
 The Great Dane was  standing around looking amused at my panic. If he could speak he would have said "Look, she is playing in it now too. haha!"
Like most Great Danes this one liked follow me around the house with his nose up my rear, so he of course followed us to the bathroom. The little mop dog who acted more like a cat than a dog just stared at us amused. He was not about to get near that tub though. I put my son down while the bath water ran I debated about who to bathe first. I opted for the dog as I could hose him off with the shower head faster and let him dry while I bathed my son in the tub. 

The story get's better though.

 With a Dane snout up my fanny, holding a dirty baby in one arm and dragging the mop dog by the collar across the floor, (thus leaving streaks across the floor) I was getting upset fast.  I placed my son in his walker where I could see him in the kitchen. I wiped off his hands while holding the little dog snug between my legs. The Dane (who thank God, was NOT about to get dirty) was on the floor staring at me all doe eyed. After wiping my son down I placed the little dog in the tub covered in suds. In a flash my son escapes his walker again and finds the gallon jug of oil I mentioned earlier. I hear him slapping in it and giggling and then I hear "GLUG GLUG GLUG" I leaped from the bathroom with a wet dog in my arms and slide across the kitchen floor on oil and bust my butt. The Dane, naturally slides right behind me and also busts his own rear. My son is sitting in the corner mixing his brownish, greenish liquid covered hands with the yellow-ish oil that is now covering the floor, both dogs, him and myself.  Not to mention the walker, my walls, the carpet and pretty much anything knee high was covered or at the very least splattered with oil and foreign liquid.
During my slide across the floor I had my mouth open in an attempted yell, when this mixture of oil and foreign liquid met my face in mid air. It in no way made for a beautiful marriage.
 I was gagging and horrified. This was the worst moment of my life! Outside of that onetime my son left me FOREVER unclean that is.
After a few slippery attempts to stand back up with the wet and oily dog in my arms, I gave up.
I let the mop dog go and he ran around rubbing his wet nasty self on my carpets and walls.

"Get it together!" I told myself. I took a deep breath and after surveying that everyone (though nasty as could be) was safe, I crawled over to the cabinet. I grabbed the dog treats and tossed them in the tub. Both dogs got in with no problems. Well, the first half of the Dane got in with no problems. It took a hardy shove to get the later half of him in the tub. I then gathered the bath chair for my son to sit up in and placed him in it next to the dogs.  I turned on the shower head and we all stood and/or sat in the tub being sprayed off while I broke down to cry.

I was so upset, who the heck does this happen too? Why me? I am a failure as a mom. I only have one kid, and this is the kind of mess I am capable of getting myself into?

Dear moms,
 Yes, one kid or many there will be days like this. They can even be worse than this.
There will be better days though too. If/When you find yourself in this place remember to turn on the shower and cry. It's okay.

After hosing down, soaping up and rinsing everyone off properly, I gathered all our towels (that I just washed and folded,) and dried everyone. I put fresh powder and a pamper on my son and laid him in his crib with a bottle. Then I threw more treats in the bathroom for the dogs to enjoy and they continued rubbing, rolling and shaking themselves dry in the bathroom. I scrubbed this mysterious pile with some baking soda and water. I opened the windows, wiped down the walls and all other surfaces afflicted by this awful mess. Then I mopped the kitchen floor and cried some more. It took about an hour to get my house tidy again. It took me the rest of the day to recover though.  I blew up my hubby's phone about the terrible horrible no good, very bad moment.
Needless to say he had a good laugh at my expense reading the text messages. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life with a Giant.

A question was posed recently by a curious party about the pros and cons of owning a Great Dane.

I watched as comments came pouring in on the post.
 "What cons?"...
 "Pros:You have a Dane, Cons: Nothing is sacred anymore....everything you have, they have."
"Snuggle buddy but, no more room on the bed."
"Pro: A best Friend. Con: The food and vet bills keep you broke."
The comments went on and on with cons about the bills and yard bombs.
The pros were usually about how Great Danes make great pets, best friends and snugglers.
I personally feel a list of pros and cons about owning a Great Dane over any other breed is highly subjective. There are simply some things that Greats Danes have and do that some people love and others despise.
 So the real question is... What do you consider pros and cons?
For me anything that seemed like a con about owning a Great Dane, was evened out by a pro that only Danes have or do.

For example: As a woman who has battled depression and anxiety, I find the food bill to feed a Great Dane that keeps me calm and happy, way cheaper than a prescription and therapy. Sure, I could use another breed of dog for the depression but, the size of my giant is part of what calms me. I cannot simply make a pros and cons list that is black and white.  So, I am going to share what it means to me to own a Dane, the good and bad. 

When I take my Great Dane Kyle out to walk or just run errands he attracts as much attention as he discourages. I personally like this. I am more calm on walks when Kyle is with me. I feel safe to take my toddler in the stroller and go anywhere. Well, anywhere dogs are allowed.  People see a big black dog with a tiny twig woman and her son and they side step us on sidewalks or engage us with a smile and sometimes a silly comment like "Nice horse". 

I have heard all the jokes, I know Kyle looks like batman, if batman were dog that is. I know he is the size of a horse... actually a mini horse at best, which by the way is actually a pony or foal.  I know when he squats to do his business he looks like some kind of gargoyle, so I have been told.  I am aware people have thought I was harboring a baby black bear. Although, black bears have longer fur, even bigger paws and are not always actually "black" especially with white markings. But, hey... they thought Kyle was a bear cub so, whatever.   I just assume people get so excited when they see Kyle, that their ability to talk without something silly coming out of their mouth, is lowered to the same level as a high school girl talking to her crush for the first time. Hey, I must admit the first time I saw him, I instantly fell in love too! I have made peace that while it's not always the most intelligent attention, Kyle attracts well meaning nice people for the most part. Kyle is also very in tune with me and when I feel even a little cautious about someone we pass on our walks or trips, he does the "stare".  His ears point straight forward in total attention and his eyes lock on the person making me nervous, but he keeps his pace the whole time we pass them. It is like he is trying to mind meld with his pointy Spock ears "Don't make any sudden moves bucko... I am on to you!"

It is both easier and harder to be a stay at home mom with Kyle and my three year old son. I have mastered what homemade concoctions remove poop and pee (and vomit) stains and odors. My walls get a nice wipe down every day because of the drool "loogies" that Great Danes tends to splatter after a good drink of water or anytime they get excited and pant. I am a professional animal odor remover. As I type this I have wiped off my computer screen a total of five times since starting this post because Kyle is nosy and keeps walking up to me and pressing his nose on my screen like he knows I am typing about him... Told you he is intuitive. 
 I could complain about how I am always cleaning up after my Great Dane and son but, the truth is, I am a better house keeper now. 

Being a stay at home mom to both a human and fur-kid also means I have to run a tight ship. This means sleeping in, is a no go... ever. When the sun is rising, so am I.

When I worked in the medical field we always joked about never taking a lunch hour, it was only lunch minute because of our demanding work. Now, I have breakfast and lunch minute. If I am lucky I get to indulge in animal crackers for a brunch second. 
At the end of the day I am usually tired but, my son and dog are happy, healthy and you know what? So am I. 

Great Danes are inside dogs. I know, people who do not have Great Danes usually think they are too big to be inside but, they don't have a coat to be outside, be it hot or cold. They don't have a neck to handle a chain, (asophogus and vertebra are too sensitive) they do not have a personality to be away from their people. Working dogs with jobs may fair to that kind of life (hopefully WITHOUT a chain) but, a Great Danes job is to be there for their people. When you separate them from your family in everything, everyday... they don't cope well. You take their job away and break their heart and spirit. Because Great Danes are big on family they also a huge part of some of the best and worst memories in my life as an adult. 

For instance, my first Great Dane, Phil helped my son learn how to walk. Phil would stand like a statue next to my son and let that little wobbly, drooling noisy baby pull himself up, steady himself against Phil and together they would take steps. My little noisy, pinching, cooing baby took his first steps with my Great Dane, Phil.  It was not graceful and I am not sure Phil really got much enjoyment out of the pinching and pulling man child. But, if my baby fell and cried it was his big pink tongue that dried... well, licked his tears away while also restyling the few little curls on top of his head.  I would not replace memories like that for the world. 

Even now with Kyle, if I chastise my son for being naughty, I also have to console Kyle because he will whimper over his boy being upset and want to coddle him.  It does this mothers heart good to know my boy has a dog that will comfort him when he is upset.  There is more of that in-tune spirit our Great Dane has with our family. 

Kyle enhances and adds character to my life, he makes more messes for me. but he causes more laughs and smiles too. He gets a case of the "Zoomies" and everyone ducks to the nearest couch for cover so he can run and pounce and get the sillies out. Having a Great Dane means cheap entertainment at any given moment. I love the sound of laughter and my head has yet to get sore from shaking it at the latest silly/dumb thing Kyle has done. Trust me, there are new things every day. 

Having a Great Dane with a toddler may mean more work but, it is also full of great opportunities. 
Here are a few...
My toddler holds the food bowl while I fill it and Kyle has to sit and stay until my toddler gives the "eat" command. My toddler can give Kyle the "crate" command from anywhere in the room and Kyle will go put himself in it. When I am wiping down walls the man-child has his own rag and works over the baseboards. It is never perfect and often I have to go behind him but, he is learning in a fun way. My son is learning responsibility, leadership and communication with Kyle in his life. He boldly gives Kyle commands, cleans up with mommy after Kyle (and himself more and more) and he is not afraid of this 140+ pound puppy.
 As a mother I find this to be wonderful and invaluable to our family. 

For me, owning a gentle giant is so much more than bigger poop, vet and kibble bills.
It is so much more than, loogie-fied walls, windows and T.V./Computer screens. It is more than the extra vacuuming of dog hair or bleaching the tub from bathes. Owning a Great Dane is different from owning any other breed. Great Danes are NOT large breed dogs. They are giant breed dogs. Kyle is larger than life in our house and many Great Dane owners can say the same about their own gentle giants. 
This is my life with a giant. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Watch Where You're Going, Fool!

 Having a dog and boy brings about some great laughs.
This next short story is one of many I have had the joy of hysterically laughing at and witnessing.

Kyle (the dog) was standing in the hallway watching his boy play in his room with his "iPad" (it's actually a Nabi but, whatever).
Kyle knows he is not allowed in the bedrooms but, he enjoys laying in the middle of the hallway and being entertained by his boy's play time. Sometimes he likes to "army crawl" into Tzion's room just to be sneaky. It never works, I always catch him or Tzion gives him away with. "Mom! Kyle is disobeying again!" Only when he says "disobeying" it sounds more like "dissa-baying".
  I caught Kyle starting into a sneaky crawl and very calmly said "Kyle" he froze for a second, then quickly jumped up and turned around to look at me like. "Huh? What? Me?"
 I shook my head and then a funny thing happened.
Tzion heard my voice and dropped what he was doing --likely something he wasn't supposed to be doing and feared getting caught-- and without looking in front of him came running out to me. If Kyle had still been laying down facing him, Tzion would have just leaped over and nothing funny would have happened. I assume Tzion did not realize Kyle had stood up or turned around when I said his name.
See when Tzion took off without looking first, he ran his little three year old toddler face right into Kyle's fanny. We are talking nose to anus contact. He was in such a rush his head actually bounced off Kyle's rear end and he fell back onto his own rear. Kyle just turned his head to look at Tzion as if to ask "You okay little fella?" but, otherwise seemingly UN-phased by the intrusive collision.
My boy is a tough kid and has a quick wit. Especially for a kid who is only three.
 Before I could even react with a giggle he jumped up and said "Kyle, watch where you're going, fool!"

Maybe you have to have been there to understand but, I was tears laughing so hard.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Forever Unclean

My son was about four months old.  We were getting ready to meet his siblings for the first time. Well, three of them anyway.
We lived just over 700 miles from my step kids and since my son's birth we had not been able to travel and see them. Christmas had just passed, but it was our turn to see the kids for our own holiday celebration. My husband left early that morning to meet and pick up the kids half way between our home and theirs.

We lived in a one bedroom drafty basement apartment. There was no television and I barely had enough dishes to cook a proper meal. (Awe the joys of starting out broke and having a new baby!)
With my son being an infant, I kept the heat a little higher than usual and wrapped my baby in layers of clothes and blankets. I had just finished cleaning our tiny space. I did my hair and even put on jeans (post c-section momma who went through a yoga pants ONLY phase for six months). I admit I was trying to impress my step kids by making them think I had all my ducks in a row. I hadn't seen them in so long and I wanted everything to be perfect for their visit meeting their new brother.
  I forget now what it was that I ate but, being a breast feeding mom everything I ate, my baby had via breast milk too.  Whatever it was that I ate though upset my son's little tummy. He had a blow out and I had to remove all his layers, clean him up and put a fresh pamper on him.  
  Normally this is not that big of a deal. New babies poop and sometimes blow outs happen. This blow out though was a special kind of nasty. It glowed like kryptonite and smelled horrendous. My son holds the record for smelliest, heaviest poops in the history of baby and toddler-dom. He has been pooping grown men since I stopped breast feeding.
 Anyway, back to changing the baby.
I had gone through an unusual amount of wipes for this pamper. My son was crying because his rear was now on fire with this poisonous liquid. It was gross, and as a new mom yes, I gagged.
Then it happened...
 I don't know if all moms get the pleasure of the following experience but, it's a shame if one misses out on this kind of motherhood christening.

I had thoroughly wiped my sons fanny and it was back to clean and smooth-ville. I was changing him on the floor. Upon lifting his rear up to place a fresh pamper down my son sharted. Sharting is when one passes gas and fecal matter escapes the sphincter at the same time.
 It is not uncommon with babies but, usually the fecal matter is tiny and solid, only requiring another "wipey once over".  Not this time though. My sons liquid kriptonite poo sprayed me in the face with that shart. Yes, I had my mouth open and was cooing at my cherubic like spawn when it happened. My already freckled face now had twice the freckles and the shart carried enough force to spread fecal freckles on the wall directly behind me.
 I froze. OH MY LANTA! I felt tears well up in my face and my little angel now resembled Satan as he giggled about the ticklish shart he had just expelled.
The following thoughts run through my head...
Do I spit? Do I scream? My Hair! Why is he laughing at me? I AM FOREVER UNCLEAN!

After a moment of being frozen in shock and horror I finish cleaning up my sharty baby and proceed to go 14 rounds with the mouth wash.  Yes 14, because 6 is the mark of the beast, 7 is a holy number but, it was kryptonite sharting so I needed double the holy number to combat the evil freckle sphincter baptism.

I showered, restyled my hair and texted the hubby who --decided to share the story with my step babies, ruining my chances of impressing anyone about anything.
When the hubby dearest arrived home he proceeded to taunt me by not kissing me hello like we always do when he gets home. No, instead he said "I love you baby but...... you're forever unclean, remember?"

Let's Fight Cancer!

 On November 1st, Kyle (Our great dane) Tzion,("T" is silent, the man-child) and myself will be doing a cancer walk.
We are teaming up with 2million dogs (Soon to be Puppy Up) to raise funds and awareness for cancer research in both humans and animals.
It is our first walk and fundraiser.

In the spring of 2010 my Nanny (grandma) was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer.
I watched as she slowly but bravely lost her battle. It was devastating to say goodbye to my person.  I was her name sake, her first granddaughter, and her partner in crime. When I went to stay with Nanny she taught me so much about love and God. She taught me how to paint my nails, curl my hair on my own and other young lady lessons. She taught me important details from holding up my pinky while we sipped tea to using manners at all times.
I miss her so much everyday. I hate that she is missing out on my family today. My son would have been her world. She had a way of making all of the grand kids (and great grand kids) feel like they were each her favorite.
 My walk is in honor of her and a friend of mine whom's husband I used to work for. Vicky's bravery with her battle is inspiring. I will be sending her much love and prayer as I walk that day.

Kyle will be representing his breed and other large breeds. Great Danes are prone to bone cancer.

Tzion won't be walking. He will be chillen in the stroller,  his presence will be representing all the childhood cancer fighters and survivors. Likely he will be greeting everyone he meets on our walk. "Hey Man," or "Hi, I am Tzion, this is Mommy, and that is my Kyle. How are you today?"

It is important to me to teach my son starting now to support the things we believes in.  I want him to learn to be proactive in fighting for others. It is with honor we join others in this walk.

 If you were going to do a cancer walk, who would it be for? 

If you're interested in donating to our walk, we are asking for $5.00 donations here.

If you have lost a loved one (family, friend or pet) to cancer please feel free to share their story in the comments. 

My Modern Family

My Modern Family,
It's a Sunday afternoon. My family and I are watching re-runs of the Modern Family show. If you have had the opportunity to see the show you know it's about three different households that are all related. Jay and Gloria, the "grandparents" are a couple with at least 20 years in age difference (Jay's oldest daughter is actually older than Gloria). Jay is a white man and Gloria is Colombian, (and a vivacious one at that). Jays daughter, Claire is married to Phil and they have three kids together, Haley, Alex and Luke. Jay's oldest son Mitchel is gay, his partner Cameron and he have an adopted daughter, Lilly from Vietnam. Gloria has a son from a previous marriage, Manny. Jay and Gloria also have a son between them, baby Joe. If you have managed to read this far without getting confused about the family tree you are doing great. If you're thoroughly confused... Just know it's one big happy multicultural, hilariously funny family. 

One of my favorite episodes from season one was on, "Threading the Needle." There is this moment towards the end of the episode when the character Jay (played by Ed O'neil) hugs Phil, (played by Ty Burrell) and told him he liked him (love is a strong word between two dudes).
Then Cameron (played by Eric Stonestreet, and one of my favorites on the show) joined in, followed by Manny (played by Rico Rodriguez). It's a beautiful moment with the whole family in the same room sharing love, and strong like for each other.  
This time while watching that scene I look around my living room at my own little modern family.
I am 26 years old, a glow in the dark, white female laying out on our futon. My husband, in his 40's, is a brilliant Mensa member and a black man. I was actually hand twisting his wiry locks while we watched our beloved show. 
Next to us is my teenage step daughter. Her skin is a beautiful copper and her hair has the kind of natural curl women pay big money to imitate. My two year old was between pretending to read to us and entertaining himself with a toy on wheels. He has my complexion but, his hair has curls cherubs would be jealous of. 

I am a mother and step mother to five children. My husband is yes, a bit older than me. Obviously we have different cultural backgrounds.  My husband comes from a more privileged and well educated life than I. He is a Philly native, has a masters degree and has never been hungry a day in his life. His immediate family growing up was small. He grew up with two sisters. However, his extended family and the community around him was large and supportive.
 I am a Midwest cowgirl from rural Oklahoma. Everything I know past 3rd grade, I taught myself. I know what hunger feels like. I put myself through community college while working two jobs. I grew up with five brothers and one sister. My extended family and community were considered outsiders. 

My husband and I have vastly different backgrounds but, together we make a great team.  He had been married before and came into our relationship with his four amazing babies. I had barely left the cowgirl life and became the 2nd wife with a full family instantly.  When we met I was so non-committal about any and everything it was not even funny (Okay, maybe it was, a little).  Poppa, (as I lovingly call my hubby) made me want to be committed (And not to a coo coo ward). We jumped in with both feet and haven't looked back. 

On this lazy Sunday afternoon in our tiny apartment I found myself falling in love with my family all over again.
Watching Modern Family is one of our favorite lazy day activities. 
I love the show's constant theme to celebrate each of the characters differences.

In my family I see our different skin colors and hair types. I've learned (and continue to learn) how to care for each and everyone's different needs, spiritually, physically and emotionally. I value each of my kid's differences. I value the differences between my husband and myself.  We have a blended family in more ways than one. It's an amazing family too. 

Throughout history the picture of family and what it means and looks like has morphed. Not too many years ago certain kinds of families were illegal, (in some places they still are) including my own. I am so thankful I live in a day and time where I can have the family that I do. 
 Family isn't always blood related. Family is not defined by money, race or sexual orientation. 
Family is differences coming together in love, to make a beautiful bigger picture.

I love and celebrate my family, my "modern" family.