This is not the life I imagined it would be long ago. We never know what surprises are in store for us, and this was not the plan. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I got to raise two wonderful kids, who are now adults and (somewhat) out of the house. Most of the time, it's been just the three of us. The furry children came later, but are every part of our nuclear family.
Julie was in middle school and Jordan was in elementary when they came to live with me. When given the choice of whether I wanted them full-time or not, there was no choice. Of course! I didn't have to think about it for a second. Sure, it was a challenge, but we were up to it. Sure, the condo was small, and our stuff is crammed everywhere, but that was not an issue. It was, and still is, home.
Jules and Jordan were involved in the decision to buy this place; the fact that I brought them for a tour and asked them if they wanted to live here in front of the seller was probably a big reason the previous owners sold this place to us. There have been many birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmases here since then. Their artwork (and some of mine) adorns the walls. The condo complex is magical at Halloween, and, in the early years, they came back with pounds of candy, grinning at their hauls. More recently, they've been handing out the candy to the new young kids in the complex.
We've been on many adventures together; before Jules went off to college, we made several yearly summer trips to Europe. We explored Stonehenge and Vesuvius together, climbed the Eiffel Tower and the Tower of Pisa, wandered through the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Prado, and other museums. We snapped pictures in Pompeii, strolled the streets of Prague, toured salt mines near Vienna, ate sorbet along the Champs-Élysées, and mailed postcards from Liechtenstein. We rode a gondola in Venice, a crazy taxi ride to St. Peter's Square (and, fortunately, not to see St. Peter directly, although there were several close calls), the high-speed trains in Spain, the funicular in Lisbon, and a cable car up the face of the Rock of Gibraltar. Jules was my navigator as we drove to Cardiff in Wales, through the back roads of France to the D-Day beaches and Mont St. Michel, and along the southern coast of Spain from Gibraltar to Seville.
And you never know when you're going to come across a Dalek, even one made of snow.
The first furry children came to live with us along the way, and they quickly became entirely entwined in our lives. They took over the house; their favorite places were everywhere. Our phones had more pictures of them than anyone and anything else. Their favorite people were all around them, although they had their preferences. They grew old with us. We learned mad vet skillz to take care of them in their old age. Losing them was very difficult, especially when it happened within six weeks in the summer of 2014.
When our friend Charlie told us that his family was fostering yet another set of kittens a few months later, and that he wanted us to come over and help socialize them, it wasn't something new. What was new was that one of the boy kittens very pointedly made it clear that Jordan was his. It became clear very quickly that the boy kitten was coming home with us, when he was ready. The only remaining decision was which of his siblings was going to come home with us, to keep him company. There were discussions and I was overridden. The little girl kitten Jules preferred came home with us too. Their names came very quickly. Houdini, the boy, is the escape artist. Pandora, the girl, is trouble right out of the box. They are home and loved, with Jord getting the lion's share of kitten attention.
Our wonderful vets were thrilled to see us back with new beasts. The condo is not quite so quiet any more, and is re-littered with cat toys.
Being a single parent is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It's also the most joyous. I've worked at a lot of different places in my career, and they've all been interesting and rewarding - but they just don't compare to being dad. I know I've made a lot of mistakes along the way, but the fact that my children still talk to me, ask me for advice, and want to share experiences together means that I must have done something right along the way. I'll take that.
And who knows what adventures are left in store? Now that Jules and Jord are older, I can go further afield. I've been back to England twice now, and am looking forward to bigger trips. I have friends all over the place, and going to visit them is a blast. I'm planning my next one, even as I type. You have to keep having adventures!