(Zach is in front of the American flag)
Zach's chief and a couple captains are wonderful and came over for the ceremony. One of them sweetly gave Shep an open cup of red punch and it was so thoughtful we couldn't bare take it away from him even though it was basically a countdown to an inevitable disaster (as seen above.)
Friday April 17th, Zach graduated from the fire academy. It was at the Illinois Fire Service Institute at the University of Illinois. His department would set him and his partner up in a hotel in Champaign during the week and then he would come home on the weekends. Even though Champaign isn't technically that far from our house, he needed to report to academy at 6 am every day, not finishing until 6pm in the evenings. Then half way through the school they added on night drills which meant after a full day they would break for dinner and then continue to fight fire until late into the night. It would not have been physically possible for him to travel back and forth. We both can agree that this was the longest 6 weeks of our life. I'll briefly describe how the first day went and how the last day went and that should give you a good picture of our lives the last 8 weeks.
A family member was hospitalized and all of my childcare options were either out of state and/or country or asleep because it was the middle of the night (thankfully my mom literally came straight from the airport to stay at my house.) I ran to prompt care in-between appointments because I was all-over-achy and clammy with a throat that wouldn't swallow, of course it was strep (and of course the rest of the kids would eventually get it, but I'm just supposed to stick with describing day one.) Somewhere in this mix the door to the van closed on Shepherd's finger. Like the door closed completely and latched and his chubby little finger was still inside, I don't know how it didn't break. I'm sure the 300 kisses I gave it had some magical powers. Zach left something at home that he really needed but didn't realize until I was laying the kids down for bed so I packed them in the car, pajamas and all, only to have Levi grab my keys and open the back hatch of my van as Reagan was opening the garage door causing them to wedge together in a way that can only be seen and not described. It took a solid 15 minutes to figure out how to untangle that mess and then we were off to meet Zach at a McDonalds and for me to sip away my sorrows via a large chocolate milkshake.
Basically Shep wakes up all night long complaining of his "eyeball" and come morning it is a glaringly obvious case of pink eye. Around 4:30am I texted my mom that I felt horrible but I was going to have to cancel on taking her to a medical procedure she was being put under for. By 7:30am we were out the door, our pediatrician has walk-in hours before their office opens so we ran there to be the first in line, got his Rx and then headed to drop Reagan off (late) at school. I was going to be picking up Reagan early from school to head to the graduation ceremony but didn't have any paper to write a note for his teacher so I wrote it on a napkin. We made it to the ceremony that afternoon just fine and dandy. (Luckily I got the eye drops early enough in the day that Shep's pink eye really isn't that noticeable in the pictures.)
The days in between are filled with a million other stories like this. Literally we would have a fantastic weekend with Zach home and within hours of him leaving, someone would wake up vomiting. I am not over-exagerating when I say this but my kids were sick and went to the doctor more in the last 8 weeks they we have in their entire lives. Oh well, that's how life is. We made it through and now we get the benefits of what we were working towards (24 on/48 off.)