Jack’s 8th Grade Graduation

Today Jack graduated from 8th grade.

They had a beautiful, socially distant outdoor ceremony. He attended a fine arts magnet for the past nine years, so as usual, the performance was excellent.

We let the twins play hooky for the morning so they could come to Jack’s graduation.

When I graduated middle school, most of the students I attended with moved onto the local high school next. This is the way it is in most of America. You start at a small, local elementary school, then next maybe three or four local elementary schools all go to a bigger middle school, then a couple of middle schools combine to go to a larger high school.

You don’t lose people, you just gain more and more.

Chicago is not like that.

Even if you go to your local middle school instead of a magnet, parochial or private school, you still have the issue of high school. In Chicago, it is almost like picking a college. Most of the kids in Jack’s school sat for the selective enrollment test, hoping to get into one of the top high school in the city. The graduation ceremony program listed the different high schools the students will attend. Out of the 31 kids that graduated, there were 19 different high schools listed.

After this, these kids will scatter to all corners of Chicago. Which made this photo so bittersweet.

This school had a single class, which means that every year the kids were in the same classroom. They became quite a tight knit community.

But there is more.

Jack has one friend that he also attended preschool with. They have been in the same class since they were even younger – since they were 3 years old. Eleven of their fourteen years on earth, in the same room most days.

Both boys applied to many schools, but only one of the schools that they applied to was the same.

And guess what?

Jack tested in to the same school as his good friend! And they both accepted!

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It’s been nine weeks since we drove our kids to Florida over Spring Break. Originally we planned to stay for three weeks to help cover the hospital visits for my mother. My sister had already covered five weeks and I wanted my turn.

If you include our earlier visit last December, we were in Florida so long this year that my friend Jessica started calling this time period “The Year Nikki Lived in Florida.”

When we arrived, my sister had organized an Easter egg hunt. On Passover.

Passover dinner with Grandpa and Auntie Doris

We were able to celebrate the Jews liberation from slavery AND eat candy celebrating the resurrection of Christ!

During our stay, the twins turned nine.

We let them pick their own cake and guess what? They picked the same exact cake.

We spent a lot of time outdoors in the glorious weather.

We played tennis.
We went snorkeling. (Red Reef Park)
We flew kites.
We played basketball.
And we spent a ton of time in the pool.

We also got to spend time with Grandpa and other family members.

Walk with Grandpa.

One day, Uncle David took us apple snail shell hunting.

Three of the four kids were schooled remotely. Adam worked from my mother’s office, although the view could be distracting at times…

One night Adam’s cousin, Jackie and her husband Mark, hosted us on their beautiful Mastercraft pontoon.

Later, on our way home, we saw another cousin (Jackie’s brother, Brett) as well.

In South Carolina

One day we played hookie and got a tour guide to take us fossil hunting.

The Peace River

One week, Adam and I returned to Chicago to get our second Covid shot while my sister and her family watched most of my children.

Battling with their cousin, Clay.
Uncle Brent opens their eyes to a whole new world right outside their front door.

Jack got to see his buddies over Spring Break.

Another weekend Jack’s buddies came to our house. One of Jack’s friend’s mother is my good friend Nicole. She joined us for the weekend.

My father takes the boys on a bike ride.
Cable Park Fun
Snorkeling at Blue Heron Bridge.
Celebrating both Jack’s buddies birthdays during our visit.

The boys weekend coincided with Mother’s Day. Having my friend Nicole there really helped.

Nicole and I taking a walk on Mother’s Day.

The other thing that really helped on Mother’s Day was chatting to my sister, Lara. She asked me what Mom would be chatting to us about if she was still with us. This conversation where Lara honored Mom’s memory was very comforting to me.

Another big support for me during these difficult weeks was my high school girlfriends. I’ve kept in touch with many people from high school but there is a group of six of us that are very close. We vacation together, we text and chat all the time. We show up at each other’s major events. We have formed our own Moai.

In my mother’s backyard.

Three of these girls now live close to my home town. And they were over often offering all kinds of love and support; bringing dinners, offering free medical advice, even hosting the funeral!

After the funeral, my girlfriends and family surrounds me with love and support.

But the biggest support by far was my husband. He worked tirelessly to help put Mom’s estate and house in order before we left. He supported me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. On the day my mother died, he cancelled all his phone calls and took me to lunch. He even let me leave Florida a few weeks later than we had scheduled when I jokingly told him that Mom’s mangoes were ripening and it would “really help my grieving process” to pick some before we left.

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