When people hear the word step-dad, it doesn’t usually come with a lot of good feelings. Most people think of a guy who married a woman with a child, and really wishes she didn’t have that child, but with my niece, Susan Griffith’s husband, Josh, they would be wrong. When Susan met Josh, she didn’t know how he would feel about her daughter, Jala Satterwhite. Susan needn’t have worried. Josh stepped into Jala’s life and became the dad, that he didn’t have to be. Jala has a dad, but if she was going to be happy with her mom’s husband, there was going to have to be something in it for her too. That’s all any child wants…to be accepted and loved, as if their step-dad were their biological dad. When Josh became Jala’s step-dad, he took his role very seriously, and he became a great father figure for Jala. She never feels like his step-daughter, because he has never made her feel that way. Josh and Susan have another daughter, Kaytlyn too, and Josh loves both girls the same. They have never felt different.

Josh is pretty good at making people feel comfortable, and less fearful. I guess it’s a knack he has. When he and Susan first met, she was really afraid of 4 wheelers. Josh came up with a way to ease Susan into the idea by starting with horses. I’m not sure how horses could ease the fear of 4 wheelers, but maybe it’s because both of them eliminate the closed in feel of a car. One thing they have found is that horses are expensive…but as with any hobby that a person loves, the horses are worth every penny. They bring the family joy and they get them out in nature, and in that way they are truly a blessing.

Josh is an avid outdoorsman. He is really at home in the mountains. The family stays very busy in the summer, trying to cram as much fun and activity into the few short months before the girls go back to school, and winter arrives. They go camping, fishing, horseback riding in the Beartooth Mountains every other weekend. In fact, living in the mountains would not be out of the question, except that the kids have all their activities. Maybe someday, when the girls are grown and on their own, that dream can become a reality, but for now, they know that the kids need school and friends. For Susan, it is clear…she and Josh will be together forever, because they are true soul mates. They are both going in the same direction, and the are very happy with their traveling companion on life’s journey. Today is Josh’s birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

tucker-and-racheltucker-and-ronMy nephew, Tucker Birky loves school, and learning in general. He is in advanced classes and doing very well. He is bringing home advance homework, and is a year ahead in Math, and two years ahead in Reading. I’ve always said that a child who can read well, can pretty much write their own ticket in this world. Tucker also plays the piano, which is a skill I would love to have, but I would have to cut my fingernails, and that’s not happening. Tucker doesn’t have that problem, so he’s in good shape. Tucker also has a desire to go into politics. He wants to be president of his student council. That is a great aspiration. He is kind and helpful, and that has made him popular at school too, so it’s quite likely that he could be elected the Student Council President. All I can say is, “Tucker, if you run for President of the United States someday, please be a Conservative. We need more Conservatives.”

Tucker and Jack JackLike a lot of boys, Tucker loves to ride his 85 Dirt bike. And he loves to shoot. For his birthday this year, he got an air gun, and his face literally lit up. Tucker loves the outdoors and camping, and all that goes with it. Which brings me to his step-dad, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg, who is his dad, as far as Tucker is concerned. Ron is his very favorite person, and his mom, Rachel Schulenberg tells me that if Ron is around, she has to fight for Tucker’s attention. They might be out in the garage working on something, or outside riding, or just hanging out, but when Ron is there, Tucker wants to be with him. And then there’s the cat, Jack Jack…yes, that’s two Jacks, and Tucker dearly loves Jack Jack. So, if Ron isn’t home, I guess Rachel has to compete with Jack Jack. That doesn’t sound like a win/win situation at all, but it seems to be the way with kids. When you get them grown up to some size, they suddenly have too many other things to do to spend much time with you. It is the way it is, but the parents don’t like it.

Tucker has set some future goals for himself too, which is somewhat unusual for a boy of just nine years. tuckers-surpriseTucker's new gunTucker has decided that he wants to join the armed forces, and serve his country. In this day and age, when many people have lost their patriotism, it’s heartwarming to see that Tucker has not, and that he will someday be in a position to make a difference in this world. I don’t think he has decided what branch of the service appeals to him, but there is time for that. His step-dad was in the Army, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tucker follow in his footsteps. For now, he is enjoying life and his favorite things. Today is Tucker’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Toni and DaveWhenever a man marries a woman with a child, he has a decision to make. He can receive that child as his own, or he can choose to alienate that child. Whichever way he goes, he will find that it isn’t an easy job, if that child has a dad of his own already. There is a fine line between being a step-dad, and trying to replace the biological dad, and crossing the line is unacceptable. Nevertheless, if the step-dad wants to have some kind of relationship with his step-son, he has to establish the boundaries…for both their sakes. Often, the child had hoped his parents might get back together, or that his mom would never remarry…while knowing deep down that neither of these ideas were possible, or reasonable.

When my niece, Toni met her future second husband, Dave Chase, she found herself so truly happy, but she also wanted to make sure that her son, James was going to be ok with all this. In reality, she needn’t have worried about it, because while James wasn’t always receptive to Dave as a father figure, Dave would eventually win Florida triphim over. That’s the kind of guy Dave is. James couldn’t help but like him, even if he tried not to at first. It’s hard on a kid to have to accept that his parents will not get back together, but once James accepted that, he has found that his life with Toni and Dave has been a really great one. He still has the same contact with his dad, but he has been able to have some great experiences with his mom and step-dad.

Dave loves to travel, and especially to hike, and so the family has had the opportunity to visit places like Virginia Beach, Malibu, California, and Florida…all places James had never been before. They have hiked lots of places too, like the Mirror Lake Trail in the Snowy Range, near Laramie, Wyoming. And because Dave has never tried to replace his dad, James has accepted him a the great step-dad he is. All too often, if a step-dad finds that the relationship with his step-child isn’t a easy one, he simply quits trying, and that is really sad, because in all reality, none of these types of relationships are easy ones, but they are worthwhile if they work at them. I think that Dave’s easy going, fun loving personality was a big part of the reason that James warmed up to him so well. I’m sure they don’t always agree on just everything, but whenever I see them together, they are obviously getting along very well. James has his own dad, but he is also blessed with a great step-dad, who didn’t have to be so good to him, but James, Toni and Dave hikingwho chose to be so good to him. And that is a blessing indeed, because he didn’t have to be a great step-dad.

Dave is such a great fit in our entire family too. He is helpful to my sister, Cheryl Masterson, and my mom, Collene Spencer. He dearly loves his little nieces and nephews, and they love him too. Those little girls especially have their uncle wrapped around their little fingers. And that’s an ok place to be when you think about it. What could be better that to have all these little kids hanging around you and thinking you are the greatest. It just doesn’t get better than that. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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