Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy asks girl to marry him at the finish line of his first Olympic-distance triathlon. Girl sees this as fitting, it's SO him. Girl says yes. And a family is born. A family with four kids, three dogs, two houses, two mortgages, and a lot of pre-existing drama. But a family nonetheless.
When Jeff and I "blended" our families, he became more than just a husband. He went from being a dad of one to a dad of four. Ok, so technically he became a "step dad" to three, but what does that mean anyway? "Step" dad? For us, it was a step in the right direction, because, if not for Jeff, our lives would have turned out a whole lot differently.
Jeff has always taken on this family business with quiet grace and thrown himself into it with abandon. He has been not just a dad to my kids, but a super-involved dad who dishes out his own unique love and guidance to them, and does it happily, despite the fact that he doesn't always get top billing.
He took guitar lessons with Hannah. He taught Hayley how to drive. He goes to every single one of Harrison's band practices and videotapes them. In fact, he is rarely seen at a kid event without his video camera and has single-handedly created hours upon hours of memories for us to look back on (plus, he makes double copies and stores one in the fireproof safe, should something tragic happen). Jeff has been a coach or assistant coach on all the kids' teams at one time or another. He attends the school events, the recitals, the assemblies, the concerts, the musical and plays (more often than not, every SINGLE performance!).
He spends hours in the kitchen at countless "movie nights" making pizza after pizza for hungry teens. He cooks gourmet food (and cleans up after!), takes the kids fishing and hunting, works on the cars to keep them running, models good habits by working out nearly every day, and riding his bike to work (even in the *gasp* rain!), and tackles home improvement projects with enthusiasm.
Jeff took on a huge responsibility when he married me. He accepted three kids into the mix that he knew he would have to clothe, feed, and pay for braces and college, and he did it without a second thought. All the while, he continued to be the amazing dad he has always been to Arlie, even carving out extra time with her to throw the football or go on adventures. And he drives her back and forth to Vantage, countless hours in the van, to meet up with her mom so she can spend time in Spokane. He's done this drive when he's sick, when he's exhausted, and when he just plain didn't want to, and he's never complained.
He's our renaissance man. He cooks, hunts, fishes, kayaks, canoes, does triathlons, runs, lifts weights, bikes, swims, works on his truck, builds things, gardens, landscapes, volunteers for the American Chemical Society, is a Toastmaster, and has made huge changes in his life for himself and for our family. He's always willing to try new things and has unbridled enthusiasm. Our kids see this every day. And he does it all without drawing attention to himself or expecting any kudos.
I hope one day my kids will see what a huge impact Jeff has made on their lives. How he has sacrificed so much to be a part of their lives and to help create the amazing family we have. Had things gone differently, had boy never met girl, Jeff may have gone on to a quiet life as a single dad raising a sweet daughter. Instead, he took a crazy headlong plunge into one of the loudest, most chaotic households - a place that is never quiet, never completely clean, always full of people and always full of laughter. I'm so glad he did. I'm so glad my kids got this amazing "step" dad.
Girl meets boy. Introduces three kids and dog. Boy is unfazed. And they lived happily ever after.