blended family

When I first met my nephew, Riley Birky, he was a little boy…just ten years old. At that time, his mom, Rachel Schulenberg was just dating my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg. Riley officially joined our family when his mom and now stepdad got married on June 12, 2010. They became a blended family that day. Losing his mom to a stroke in January of 2021, was probably the hardest time in Riley’s life, and in the lives of his family. Riley is doing his best to be there for his family, and to make his mom proud of the man he has become.

Fast forward to the present day, and you will find that Riley is now a stepdad to his fiancée Sierah Martin’s son, Jace and a dad to their son, Ryder. Theirs is also a blended family with much love to go around. They started dating two and a half years ago, when Jace was about ten months old, but they have known each other for seven years now. Riley took to Jace as quickly and easily as he did to Sierah. They are best buddies, and I’m quite sure Jace thinks of Riley as his dad. I know Riley’s mom would be very proud of him, and she would absolutely love his family.

Riley is a hardworking man. Much of his working career has been in construction and maintenance. Growing up helping his grandparents with their rentals taught him the skills that would take him into the next chapter of his life. Riley isn’t afraid of hard work, and his main goal in life is to provide for his little family in the best way possible. In that, he has very much succeeded. Riley and his sweet little are very happy in the home they have made together. Now, with the joy of adding little Ryder, their family is complete.

Riley may be young, just 22 years old, but he has proven himself to be a good man, and the man that Sierah was looking for and needed in her life. Together, they will make a good home and life for their children, and I believe they will live happily ever after. They are focused on their family, and they are both going in the same direction. They both love to travel and have had a good time in their little trips over the past couple of years. Today is Riley’s 22nd birthday. Happy birthday Riley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When Dave Balcerzak married my niece, Chantel, he brought to the marriage two children, Keifer and Katy. Chantel also brought to the marriage two children, Jake and Siara. When they got married in 2002, the children were between the ages of 14 and 7 years. They instantly became a blended family, and they all got along very well. Dave really loves kids, and he was an excellent dad to Chantel’s kids, as well as to his own. It isn’t easy to raise kids, especially during the teenaged years, and it’s even harder to raise someone else’s kids, but Dave took it all in stride, and Chantel’s kids love him very much. They consider him really more their dad, than their own dad is.

One of the blessings of having children, is the entrance of the next generation…grandchildren. In a blended family, the grandchildren are also blended. The first grandchild to come along, was a bonus baby names Alice Green. She joined Chantel’s son Jake Harman’s family when he married Alice’s mom, Melanie. Alice took to Dave almost instantly. She adored him. Alice was soon joined by sister, Izabella Harman and brother, Jaxx Harman. Dave was relishing in grandfatherhood. Then, Dave’s son, Keifer and his wife, Katie welcomed their daughter, Reece Balcerzak. Reece gave the family a bit of a scare, by arriving quite early, but she was a fighter, and all went well. Chantel’s daughter, Siara and her husband, Nick Olsen gave birth to Alec Olsen, who after 3 months, went to live in Heaven, breaking the hearts of all of his family, who miss him very much. Finally, Dave’s daughter, Katy Balcerzak and her fiancé, Dylan Herr, gave birth to their son, Max. Dave and Chantel’s blended family is going through more blending, as the new grandchildren have arrived. Life is so sweet, when grandchildren are involved. I know that the future will bring more grandchildren, and great happiness to this wonderful blended family that Dave and Chantel have so lovingly created.

Dave has been a wonderful addition to our family. He has a heart of gold, and the capacity to love everyone, a trait that has endeared him to all of us. It’s not every parent who has the ability to love their step-children as much as their own children, but for Dave they are all his children, and he will give the best of himself for all of them, and the blessing he has been to them, is now being returned to him, many times over. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Brian Cratty, who is my sister-in-law Jennifer Parmely’s partner is a somewhat quiet man, who is very likable. They share so many common interests, the biggest of which is the love of the outdoors. That means hiking, skiing, and of course, Brian’s favorite, bicycling. They love to be in the mountains, and so when the chance came up to buy a cabin on Casper Mountain, they took it. For the past few years, they have been spending time fixing up their little cabin so that it can be a place where they can gather with their family and just enjoy the beauty of the mountain.

Brian is a retired pilot, so he likes those high altitudes, but being on the mountain is much different from flying above it. Still, there is something about being up there. Live is different on the mountain. It’s quieter and more relaxed. The air is fresh and clean, and the trees smell amazing. Who could blame Brian for wanting a cabin up there. The area where their cabin is, has an abundance of trees, and it is very peaceful. The location is perfect for both hiking and bicycling because it is near a trail.

Brian and Jennifer are so good together. They are two people who are happily going in the same direction, and that is always a good thing. Their blended family seems to do well with it too, even though the kids are all grown and living on their own. The thing I think I like best about Brian, however, is his caring nature. He is so good to Jennifer, and that goes a long way when a guy joins a family. Being the new guy on the block is never easy, but when you have a kindness about you, and you don’t force your own way, it gets a whole lot easier. That is exactly the kind of guy Brian is. I remember when I first met him. He wasn’t loud and boisterous, but had a relaxed way, or maybe such a big family was simply overwhelming. Either way, we really think he is a great addition to the family. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian! Have a great day!! We love you!

Dustine & Greg HushmanWhen death silently steals the one you love…your best friend and the love of your life…it is the most life altering moment that anyone can ever experience. You had thought you would grow old together, and now you find that is not to be. Two days ago, the life of my dear cousin, Greg Hushman was altered by the loss of his precious wife, Dustine. Her passing was unexpected, and that made it that much more shocking to all of us…especially Greg. Dustine and Greg met in Casper, Wyoming after both of them had been divorced. It was a second chance for them, and it would become their happily ever after.

Their blended family would share many wonderful times. They would see the weddings of their children, and the birth of grandbabies. Their love grew with every passing day, week, and year. Their marriage was blessed in so many ways. At times, it seemed too good to be true. When I asked Greg’s daughter, Stephanie Willard for a little bit of information on Dustine, it was a bit hard for her. They live on different sides of the country, and so don’t get to see each other very often, except on Facebook. Nevertheless, Stephanie said something that has remained in my heart, although she probably doesn’t even know what she said. It was one of the nicest things a step-daughter could say, I think, and the most mature. She said, “Dustine made my dad happy, and that made me happy.” What a tribute!! In this life, filled with its ups and downs, happiness and sadness, love and loss, what better thing to be remembered for than the simple truth that you made your spouse and family happy. To some, that may seem like a less than stellar goal, but not to anyone who has truly found such happiness.

When my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my mom, Collene Spencer, and I went to Washington in 2013 to visit our cousins there, and attend the funeral of my Uncle Jim Wolfe, we had the opportunity to get together for dinner with Greg, and his brother, George. We had hoped their wives could have come, but it didn’t work out that way. It had been a very long time since we saw either of the girls, especially Dustine. As we talked, Greg told us that he had bought Dustine a new car, and you could just see how pleased he was with that. His eyes sparkled with delight, at being able to do this for her. You could see that he was reliving the moment over and over in his memory. Yes, I agree with Stephanie, Dustine made Greg happy, and Greg made Dustine happy too.

It makes me feel so sad to know that Dustine has left us now, but like Greg, I am glad that the constant pain she was in since an accident at UPS many years ago, is over now. She will always be in our hearts, as grief eventually gives way to memories of happier times. We love you Dustine. Rest in Jesus now, until we see you again in Heaven.

Amanda Kay ReedNot every family member comes into the family by birth or directly by marriage, sometimes they come into a family by way of a blended family. That is the case with my niece, Amanda. She is the daughter of my sister Caryl’s second husband, Mike Reed. Amanda was a blond 16 year old girl just starting into the pre-adult years. She is the same age as my niece, Andrea, who is Caryl’s daughter, so they would now have two 16 year old girls in the household. All I can say to that is…ouch!! All of the emotions of two 16 year old girls would be more than anyone should have to get used to all of a sudden, but that was the situation Caryl and Mike found themselves in, when they combined their two families to make one.

Since my daughters are 11 months apart, I knew what it was going to be like for them. For one month of every year Corrie and Amy are the same age too. The difference is that I was able to move into the horrible teens slowly, and easing into the changes the girls would go through. I can’t imagine doing those years without that prior preparation. The girls got along pretty well…most of the time, and the first year didn’t seem to be too bad. I knew that if they could live through that first year, the rest would be progressively easier, and they were.

Amanda is still the same blond girl, but now, she has a little girl of her own. She is a wonderful mother, who, along with her significant other, Sean has raised a wonderful little girl named Jaydn, who is just as sweet as she can be. We don’t get to see them as much as we would Sean, Jayden, & Amandalike, because they live in Rawlins, but when we do see them, it is always a pleasure.

You never really know how loved ones will come into your life. As circumstances change, so do the people in your life, and while not every blended family works out so well, Caryl and Mike’s did, and we have been very blessed because it did. We have new family members that we would not have had any other way. I feel very blessed to have Amanda as a part of our family, as well as Sean, Jaydn, and of course, Mike too. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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