We're sending this girl off to college this week, and I'm still in a state of disbelief. (For those of you not familiar with Jessica, she is my BFF Eileen's daughter, and since Eileen is like my sister, Jessica is like my niece--in every sense of the word.) It's not that there hasn't been plenty of time to prepare. Jess graduated from Hinkley High School (with high honors, natch!) in 2014, but she chose to take advantage of the ASCENT program our district offers high school students. (read all about this amazing opportunity here) By taking some concurrent enrollment classes in high school and staying in Aurora for an additional year to attend the Community College of Aurora, Jess was able to complete an Associate of Arts degree in one year, without having to spend a dime. Now she is off to UNC in Greeley, enrolling as a junior!
So yes, Jess got to stay around an extra year, and that should have given all of us time to get used to the idea that she would be heading out. She's capable and more than ready, but it's hard to see that when you've known her since birth. Because when I see her, I see
always dancing, always smiling, always beautiful.
and this girl
spending Sundays in the Springs with my family and crushing on my nephew Andy!
and this one
celebrating holidays and birthdays and weddings and always having the time of her life!
and this one
rock star fundraiser, especially for the Arthritis Foundation, and superstar member of Team Thompson and Friends for all ten years that we have walked in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. Jess, your generous heart and beautiful spirit made the sun shine on those snowy days and thawed even the coldest mornings--minus one awesome degrees--on those 2nd Sundays in December. Wash Park glistened because of you. Thank you for putting your heart and soul into this event.
and this one
loved and supported so much by her family, including her cousins, her aunts and uncles, her grandparents who cherish her presence when they visit or when she goes home to Nebraska, and her father and step father.
And most importantly, Jessica's mom, my BFF, who has raised Jess to be honest, caring, hard working, a believer, a dreamer, a risk taker, and a giver. Thank you, Eileen, for sharing Jessica with me and for bringing this beautiful girl into our lives!
and this one
always invited, always included, and always, always loved by the entire Thompson family. We all adore you, Jess, and are so grateful you are part of our lives!
and of course this girl
Jewel's babysitter, protector, the only one who can get her to eat when she's being picky, and the only person (besides my mom) whom I truly feel 100% okay leaving her with. Thank you, Jess, for loving JuJu as much as I do!
Watching this tiny little pumpkin with this high, squeaky voice grow into a stunning young woman with so much talent and soul has been amazing. So many memories will forever be in my heart
reading books together, with three-year-old Jess inserting her own names into the story (Cheryl Thompson, into the woods!)
and the way you pronounced my name (Shale) all the way into your teens and even now hearing it occasionally come out in your voice
and playing tons of board games like Wizard of Oz Trivia or Yahtzee while we drank Cokes together
and our countless sleepovers which always included food and movies like Aquamarine and those Twilight movie marathons where I would only make it through one but you and Jewel would stay up all night watching all five
and our pool therapy summers, always making a Sonic stop afterwards for a breakfast burrito and a Coke that always tasted like the best Coke EVER!
and all our shopping and lunch and theatre dates
and your talent for entertaining so many with your dance and your voice and your drama
and touching all our hearts.
Now it's time for you to go out and touch some more. Just don't forget to
call your mom every day
message and FaceTime me and Jewel and Lee OFTEN
come home on weekends every now and then
know that you are so loved.
GO CHANGE THE WORLD, JESSICA CZAPLA!