'He feels like Dad'

SUWANEE -- As a bachelor, Scott Moretz spent much of his time at the gym, playing golf and going to the lake.

He traveled a lot, worked plenty of hours as he tried to bolster his resume and paycheck.

Kids weren't something he thought of much. In fact, they weren't even in his plans.

The intense lifestyle was fostered by the Army football program, and as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.

"Work hard, play hard; they really mean that," Moretz said. "It's pretty intense."

About six years ago that changed.

Moretz met a co-worker at an engineering firm where he worked, and eventually asked her on a date.

"You know I have five kids, right?" she said.

"I absolutely do," he said.

In January 2010, the bachelor whose single life was "100 miles per hour," shifted into a higher gear when he married the mother of those kids, and his one-time co-worker, Tracy. Almost immediately, Scott's military background was put to the test with the chaotic atmosphere of a household of five kids.

"He definitely had to learn that nothing's planned," Tracy said. "With five kids, something can always happen."

Now Kaylin, 22, Lauren, 21, 12-year-old twins Ashley and Peyton and Reagan, 11, look to Moretz for advice from things that range from soccer practice, to where to live on your own.

"He's taken in a little of our craziness," Kaylin said. "But also molded my little brothers."

Moretz said the kids were a positive factor in deciding to get married.

"Those children are part of what makes Tracy as amazing as she is," he said. "I call her super woman; she can do it all. She can be a professional, she can be a mom, she can deal with things that most people couldn't deal with, and she does it with ease. That's part of the reason I fell in love with her."

While the fact of joining a family with five kids didn't faze him, neither did the fact that Ashley is severely disabled, and requires full-time care. Ashley has a mitochondrial disorder, and her brain doesn't produce as much energy as it should, Scott said, so she has the brain capacity of a 3-month or 4-month-old child. Ashley also cannot walk or talk, and uses a feeding tube.

A special- needs child is typically difficult for a biological parent, much less someone in Moretz's position, Tracy said. "Scott just stepped right into that role," his wife said. "She doesn't talk or anything, but she knows when Scott is in the room."

Finding a bed for Ashley was an ongoing issue to solve. It needed to resemble a day bed, and have sides with rails, but some beds had spaces where her arms and legs could get caught, Tracy said.

So Moretz built a custom bed for Ashley that included a square kiddie pool that softened the sides.

In fact, Moretz's demeanor around Ashley is one of the reasons the rest of the family became comfortable with him in the picture, Kaylin said.

"Something about watching him with Ashley made me love him even more," Tracy said. "It did take effort. She can't say her ABCs, and make him proud."

While Moretz said they maintain a good relationship with the kids' biological father, who lives in Hall County, the kids also noticed their mom's relationship with Moretz.

"It was nice to see Mom happy," Kaylin said. "I've never seen her as happy as she is with Scott. Their love is insane. It's like something you see in a movie almost."

Moretz, a native of Abingdon, Va., is the supervisor of Public Works for the city of Suwanee, where he has worked for two years. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., Moretz traveled around the country, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and served a tour each in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Moretz joined the family, one of his priorities was to create traditions through experiences. In less than three years since the wedding, Memorial Day beach trips, Christmas ski vacations and fall reunions to Virginia to make apple butter are a staple.

In 2008, since it was an election year, Moretz put the Thanksgiving menu to a vote. The winning meat was ribs, and the boys, Peyton and Reagan, were so excited they wore white T-shirts to the table.

At Christmastime in 2009, again Moretz preferred a gift that was more an experience than wrapped in paper. So he built a treehouse mostly by himself and in the snow, Tracy said, so the kids would wake up to it Christmas morning.

While family life has been a transition, such as Saturdays that feature five or six soccer games on multiple fields, it's quite a change from his bachelor days traveling through corporate America.

"Honestly, I think I took those positions because I wanted to fill a void, and I didn't know what that void was at the time," he said. "I thought it was the title, all the stuff, the money, the travel would make me happy. Now I realize. At the time, I thought that was the American dream, but now that I've got the kids, that's what makes me happy."

Father's Day is meaningful to Moretz, he said, but it's the simple, everyday moments that often hold more meaning. He recalled a recent moment at an outdoor movie in Town Center Park that touched him, he said. And he also enjoys cutting a watermelon, tossing horseshoes or playing football in the yard.

"That's when I realize life is great," he said.

For the kids, the feeling is mutual."He feels like Dad," Kaylin said. "It feels cool to be able to have that. We are his kids, he makes us feel that way, and we feel the same way."