The Pleasant Farm

Life & Family

Dear Trent & Tyson (End of 2017) December 24, 2017

Filed under: Family — Jess Z. @ 10:39 pm
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Dear Trent & Tyson,
Holy moly, what a year!  Your dad proved to be a real-life hero, we had our first family vacation, Trent started kindergarten, and about a thousand things in between.
I should start by warning that you that this is your 3rd book like this, and the first time that I ran out of space.  I was forced to push all of Christmas into just a few pages, which was a terrible time for me.  You each had a school program, had a fantastic program at Sunday School, then Christmas with both families all before Santa even came.  So when you wonder what types of things get kicked out when Mom has too many pictures, I can promise you that I take way too many pictures of the two of you sleeping. (Swoon!)

We don’t have a perfect life.  Sometimes you guys don’t listen the best and sometimes I yell for no reason.  There’s spills, running late, brothers fighting, and either mom or dad being crabby from not getting enough sleep at work (and sometimes both of us at the same time).  But part of what I hope these books show you is how many wonderful times we have together, even though they aren’t all perfect.  Even on the most mundane of days, I will catch a picture of you two being so sweet together or remember how blessed we are to have each other.


Trent, you amaze me with your kindness, bravery, and smarts.  Transitioning to kindergarten was nothing for you because of all those things.  You’re such a great kid, and you’re also so funny.  Your smile lights up the lives of so many and your willingness to give hugs to those you care about can change someone’s entire day.  I love to watch you grow!

Tyson, I call you my stinker but I say it with love. There is no one on this earth with the charisma and personality of you, and while it is sometimes hard to get a picture without a goofy smile, you are so lovable! I’m soaking up these last days of having you home before you join brother at grade school, and while sometimes that means you get drug all over the place, it also means a lot of time with just the two of us that we’ve never really had before. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

We are so blessed to look back at an entire year of health (I think Tyson only had 2 ER visits!), growth, happiness, and love. Daddy and I are thankful every day for our perfect family of 4, even through the not-so-perfect moments that make us normal. I can’t imagine a year being more memorable than 2017 was for our family, but I look forward to finding out with you!
I love you forever and ever, and evermore,



Urban Bourbon Half-Marathon October 21, 2017

Ahhhh, Louisville! I’ve had more than a couple amazing trips there, sometimes with friends and once with just Todd, sometimes passing through and sometimes to stay. This trip was different than any of the others.

This time I had ALL three of my sisters, three brother-in-laws, and a 13.1 mile race. For the first time ever.

Everyone likes to rub it in that I’ve always said I’d “never” run a half-marathon, and while that is completely factual, at least giving in on running a stupid-long race with sisters and a friend in one of my favorite places in the country which would end with a party serving free bourbon is way better than reneging on something like never doing drugs.

This has involved a lot of firsts. First time following a training schedule, first time watching pace like a hawk while training, first time dealing with crazy feet pain, first time skipping a nightcap with a long run scheduled for the next morning, and then the obvious first time running a half-marathon. And while it seems like a stretch to say it was fun, the race part went well and the rest really was fun!

I’m pretty sure this whole idea started with an article in Runner’s World about which races have the best post-race parties, with the Urban Bourbon Half-Marathon being rated to be one of the best. The band was great (if only we’d snagged picture of the lead singer trying to engage Kevin…), but the crazy long lines for pizza, bourbon samples, and beer put a damper on the fact that those things were all delicious and kind of free.

So here I sit, resting my poor feet on water bottles of ice, completely grateful for the experience.  I’m grateful for Jenny, Jackie, and Lindsey for giving me the push to do this and for all the miles we’ve logged together even before today.  I’m grateful for Julie who carried around a ton of our stuff, made encouraging signs, and followed us around on the course to cheer (and dragging along the brothers-in-law, ha!).  I’m grateful for Todd who gave me many Saturday mornings free of kids to run.  And I’m grateful for all those running friends who said “Ehhhh no biggie, you’ll rock that!”  We had the BEST running weather, a great race, yummy bourbon, and memories to last a lifetime!  Peace out, Louisville!


Dear (6-Year-Old) Trent September 9, 2017

Filed under: Family,My kid's growing up! — Jess Z. @ 9:00 am
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Dear Trent,

Farmers all around us have been busy chopping corn silage. And seeing those fields will always make me think of you.

We’d had a few busy days of chopping corn silage when my water broke six years ago, followed not too far behind by contractions.  It took 20 hours from the gush for you to be in my arms, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.  Kinda funny now that you’re such a farm boy, as if it’s literally in your blood.

From the day you were born, you’ve been teaching us.  You taught us how to not listen too closely to a newborn baby sleep, or we’d never sleep.  You taught us how lifesaving a lovey can be, and importance of having a backup one in hiding.  You taught your dad and I how to divide and conquer between doing the things we need to do, doing the things we want to do, and keeping our family a priority.  You taught us how to trust a small boy to make good decisions and be independent when we welcomed your brother before you were two years old.  You taught us how easy potty training can be, followed by Tyson taking us down the hard road.  You taught us not to be sad when you went to school  because you were having an awesome time, how to leave you overnight with grandmas so me & Daddy can cover our shifts, and how to pick between the things that matter (not running into traffic) and the things that don’t (covered in mud…again).

Your smile can light up a room.  Your eagerness to help and be polite is endearing.  In the last year, you’ve learned piano, t-ball, soccer, real swim strokes, and how to smile on command for a picture.  You’ve worn a tie for the first time, stood next to the Governor, and drove a tractor.  Now you’re my big kindergartener, my fearless bus-rider, my train and tractor-loving All-American boy, my sweetheart, and my SIX-year-old.

I know the next year will be chock-full of more things that you’ll learn.  And I know that there’s so much more for you to teach me & Daddy.  You’re a shining example of kindness, patience, and curiosity and I’m so blessed to call you my son.

Happy 6th Birthday, Trent!

Love forever and ever,



Dear (Preschool Again) Tyson September 6, 2017

Filed under: Family,My kid's growing up! — Jess Z. @ 6:27 pm
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Dear Tyson,

We’ve had a strange few weeks after Trent started kindergarten, days in a row where you were an only child and we saw a different side of Crazy Tyson.  I thought you might bask in the joy of having all of the attention, or that maybe you would spend the days lonesome and sad.  But not really either of those things happened, or maybe it was more of a combination of both.  You’ve certainly been excited when we say it’s time to go pickup Trent from the bus, but otherwise don’t ask about him.  The strangest thing that has happened has been how quiet you’ve become– apparently being with Trent gives you an air of confidence, and without him you do a surprising amount of hiding from people and not wanting to say a thing.

So I can’t really say if you were excited to start preschool again (this year in a class of 4-year-olds), but you haven’t complained when we talk about it.  You happily picked out your supplies when we bought Trent’s, but that was so long ago now that the excitement has since disappeared.  When we went to orientation yesterday, you stood outside the classroom door in the corner, needing coaxing to get inside.  But when we went today for your first real day, you walked in side-by-side with me, picked your name out among the names on the table, and went off to start playing which I took as my cue to leave a quick kiss and run.

I know you’ll have a great year, because you bring fun and energy everywhere you go.  I also know you’ll learn a lot, because you’ve got great teachers (and a big brother who is excited to know everything).  You get to spend a few mornings a week at school like what has seemed like “everyone else” (since most days of Trent being at school are full of questions about where everyone else is, and they’re all also at school), and otherwise spend time at home as an only child.  ‘Til next year.

I’ll remind you to kiss me goodbye before school and be nice to the other kids.  You’ll remind me that this is the last year for late morning snuggles and lunch dates.  Together we’ll tackle each year, with changes being a certainty and the love of our family being constant.


Please keep everyone smiling!  I love you!




Dear (Kindergarten) Trent August 14, 2017

Filed under: My kid's growing up!,Uncategorized — Jess Z. @ 10:55 pm
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Dear (Kindergarten) Trent,
I’m typically pretty on top of getting things done, known for having birthday cards and gifts bought months ahead of time and being one of the first to have Christmas cards in the mail as soon as it can be considered (somewhat) appropriate.  But when I got the information I needed to start the registration process online for you to start kindergarten, there was no fire under my rear to get it done.
After weeks of partially forgetting and partially thinking I never had the time at the present moment to deal with it, I finally moved it off the To Do list.  But in the middle of all the mundane, blah blah blah questions, they had a box to answer the question: Please describe your child.

I’m pretty sure my memory tells me there was a limit to how long I could have gone on to describe you.  While I expect they were looking for things like “Might have trouble seeing/hearing” or “Can’t be separated from Mom without bawling” or “Has a penchant for lighting fires”, I wrote an incredibly abbreviated version of things I wanted them to know and then ended it with short sentence to sum it up: No special needs.  That last line was probably the only part that didn’t generate an eye roll.

There are so many adjectives I could use to describe you, and so much I want your teacher to know… yet I don’t think any of this is what the registration form was necessarily looking for.  I want her to know that you’re so open and loving that it can catch a person off-guard.  With the hundreds (thousands?) of kisses you’ve given me, it’s still sometimes a surprise to get a wet smooch as I’m distracted with getting you buckled in the car.  I want her to know that you’re so sensitive to how other people are feeling, she should be aware that someone else’s bad day or misfortune might throw a wrench in your own day.  I want her to know that you love doing things on your own that you know you can, but that things that seem difficult to you once you get started will sometimes prevent you from continuing to try.  I want her to know that you love picking flowers (or weeds) for your mom, have no problem trodding through ankle-high cow manure, love wrestling with your dad, and don’t hesitate sharing kisses with dogs.  I want her to know you have your future outlined already: work as train engineer, and then help your brother farm on your days off.  I want her to know what it looks like to see you smile proudly when you’ve done well, and recognize the warning signs that you’re getting frustrated with a project or getting worried about someone else’s predicament.  I want her to know that sometimes when you get upset, your eyes will start to tear up but you’ll gladly listen to words of encouragement and understanding, while you scrunch up your mouth and nod along, soaking up the words and keeping the tears from actually falling.  I want her to know that often, you seem years beyond the 5 years and 11/12 months that you’ve been on this earth.  I would describe you as an all-American boy, loving balls and bicycles and running around crazy, all with a heart of gold that gives you the ability to make those around you feel special.

I can’t say how it will feel to “send you off to Kindergarten” although it helps that you have so many false starts that it’s hard to label one day as The One Where He Left Me.  It wasn’t quite tonight, when your daddy took you to drop of school supplies and check out your classroom.  It isn’t quite Wednesday, when we’ll go together for a couple hours of orientation.  It’s kind of maybe Friday, when you’ll meet the bus in the morning for the first time and go to school all day—with only half of the students.  So it’s also kind of the following Monday, when you’ll take the bus to school and have a full day of school with all your peers.  At some point, I might get weepy because it’s most certainly a big step to disappear to school all day.  But it would be silly of me not to think of the exciting door that is really opening up in front of you: learning new things, going new places, meeting the people who will be your friends and the people who will help you grow and even the people who will make you wonder why they go through life making others feel bad.  It’s all a part of childhood; a crazy journey towards who you really are that is hopefully full of more happy times than tough times.  You are so ready to move forward and while I won’t be pushing you out the door, I’m excited to watch you make the jump.

Yes, I’m excited.  I’m ready to watch you grow, volunteer for field trips, and let others realize how truly special of a kid you are.  What I’m scared of is the influence that others might have on you.  I’m scared of the common concerns like bullying, not loving school, or having a hard time fitting in.  I’m scared you might learn how to make others feel bad instead of nurturing your knack for making people feel good.  I’m scared you’ll find reasons to believe I’m holding you back from “all the fun things” instead of being your favorite one to smooch and cuddle.  I’m scared you’ll test what it would be like to try to conform to how other kids act and the things they like, rather than stay strong to who you are regardless of the opinions of others.  I’m scared you’ll decide to keep the tough stuff a secret instead of letting me be a rock for help and advice.

I pray you’ll love school and I pray that I’ll find ways to cope if you don’t.  I pray you will be tough enough to ignore bullies and soft enough to be the one others go to for encouragement.  I pray you will be safe.  I pray you won’t think anything bad about taking a bus and I pray that I’ll get you to the durn stop on time.  I pray you find a love for learning things, even the things that seem tough at first.  I pray you eat at least some of your lunch.  I pray you have the strong foundation from a family who loves you to grow stronger, even amidst people who might want to tear you down just to feel taller.  I pray you never wonder whether or not you’re loved, even when you find yourself in a building bustling with people going every direction and you feel like a tiny, insignificant dot.

Yeah, the box asking me to describe you didn’t have nearly enough room.  Because you, Trent Allen, are one in a million.  You are kind.  You are loving.  You are smart and incredibly aware of how others are feeling.  You are fun to be around and love helping others.  I know you will kick ass in kindergarten because in everything you do, you make us proud.  Congratulations, Kiddo, on another big step in life.  I love you so much!



Wood Hat Will Do! July 14, 2017

Filed under: Trips — Jess Z. @ 10:02 pm
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It’s no secret we’ve acquired a taste for good bourbon. But it’s not just the smooth flavors that we appreciate: trips along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, and other random places we’ve tracked down have taught us so much of the back story that we appreciate each of the ones we’ve personally visited even more.

Each tour starts the same. There’s always corn, then sometimes wheat, rye, or barley. There’s a mash that goes to the still, and a point in the process where moonshine is an option to pull from the line. The differences come from how they choose their grains, what recipe is their trademark, how long they choose to leave their product in a barrel, and what shape of bottle they fill. Then there are seemingly small variations that can make a big difference, such as the amount of char in a barrel, switching barrels at a point in the aging process, or mixing two different barrels.

But the stories and history are amazing. The more we learn about how a product came to be, the more we can appreciate the pour in a glass that is no longer considered simple. And that interest in wanting to know the people and the history are what lead us to the Wood Hat in New Florence, Missouri.

Let’s backup to last November, when we went to Whiskey in the Winter with the Jacksons, held in downtown St. Louis. If you can picture a huge hotel ballroom filled with different distilleries offering tastings and stories of their product, you would probably imagine it difficult to remember anything specific. But the Wood Hat stuck out that night, and listening to that bearded man tell part of his story while wearing his handmade wood hat left a mark in our minds—especially with the Jacksons, as they develop their soon-to-be café named The Wooden Tie. See a correlation?

The Wood Hat opened in 2003 by the bearded gentleman who has chosen to take his experience in agronomy and woodworking and marry them into a dream retirement of making whiskey: choosing varieties of corn (they use locally grown white, yellow, red, and blue corn in their mash bills, with 2 acres of corn even growing right behind the distillery), cooking corn and wheat into a mash, distilling, and then holding that product in wooden barrels also acquired locally until it’s ready to be served as Wood Hat Whiskey or Bourbon. It’s an insanely intimate production line, with the same few employees handling every step of the process while also humoring the customers who step in for a glimpse of that process and a taste of the end result.

The Wood Hat used to be the only distillery in the nation that cut its own wood to provide heat to cook the mash; now they are one of 2. They do everything for their whiskey and bourbon in a relatively small building with a line of containers in the back which hold all of the barrels for aging. The barrels are chosen, bottled, labeled, and loaded onto pallets all in that building.

It’s nice to see hard-working people carefully craft a product that has the end-result of being fantastic. While we enjoyed every part of the tasting, the Wood Hat Rubenesque, a 100 proof bourbon, is definitely their crown product. And now that we know how a single man’s dream, pride in agronomy, interest in woodworking, dedication to locally sourced inputs, and skill at creating quality products can all come together in a tiny Missouri town, I am excited to pick this out of a line-up on a shelf and I also look forward to seeing them grow.



Dear (4-Year-Old) Tyson May 22, 2017

Filed under: My kid's growing up! — Jess Z. @ 8:49 pm
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Dear (Four Year Old) Tyson,

A terrible, terrible thing happened today.  You laid down with Daddy for your nap and he couldn’t get you to sleep.  So I lay down with you, telling you that you needed to nap, and I also failed.  I used to tell you that someday when you’re 4 years old, you won’t have to take a nap anymore (but I purposely haven’t been adding that recently, with your birthday on your brain).  And I have never told you that Trent actually gave up on his afternoon nap the week before he turned 4.   But here we are, a day before your birthday, and it seems like BOOM!  You really are older.


I read my letter to you from when you turned 3 and much of what I wrote is the same: you are ornery and feisty, and you have a way of making people laugh.  But in the last year, you’ve had many experiences and grown so much.  There have been a couple (alright, a few) trips to the ER, surgery for a broken arm, staples in your noggin, and somehow only one ambulance trip.  You started preschool and won over the teachers’ hearts, not by being loving like your big brother, but by being so full of spunk & spark.  And reading your past letter was a reminder of another hurdle we cleared in the past 362 days: you did get potty-trained!

You still like farming more than trains, even though Trent tries to convince you to love trains as much as he does.  Your favorite birthday gift last year was a planter, and the favorite so far this year is a drill.  Our whole house is officially planted in corn and beans.

Your middle name should be Noise.  If you aren’t making noise, you’re up to something even worse.  And no matter how many times we try to turn down the volume of your voice, you’re always a dozen decibels above anyone else in a conversation.

I thought your brother would be more of an enemy than an ally by now, but luckily that’s not the case.  Not including Daddy, Trent is still your favorite person.  If you can’t see him or hear him, you start looking for him.  One of the sweetest things ever was watching you give him a big hug goodbye when we dropped him off for preschool this whole last year, as if you were going to be apart for a great length of time.  Most things that you do require an acknowledgment or accolade from him: “Do you like this Trent?”  “And I did it by myself, right Trent?”  “Trent, you gotta come see this!”

So we go forth into the land of a four-year-old.  I’m hoping naps haven’t completely abandoned your schedule.  I’ll continue to live for your quiet moments on my lap when there’s nowhere for you to be running to and no one to holler at, and I’m reminded to seek out those moments a little more.  You’ll probably be wrapped up in you Paw Patrol blanket, with your fingers around the tag on your froggy lovey, and you just might resemble a sweet little boy who I have spent the last four years falling in love with.

In the next year, we will have a lot of changes but we will ride the waves as a family.  Between Daddy’s new job and schedule, Trent starting kindergarten, and you possibly giving up naps (Lord help me), we will have to make it a daily reminder to do everything as a team.  I can’t wait to see you do swimming lessons for the first time and move onto the next year of preschool.  You will get lots of ride-time in the tractor, probably get yourself hurt in some way or another, and continue being a living, breathing spark that ignites smiles in others.

I love you so much and I’m beyond proud to be your mommy.  I will always be there to kiss your boo-boos (or ride next to you in the ambulance or help hold the post-surgery popsicle).  And when people comment “He’s just so sweet!”, I might smirk and roll my eyes a little but I know better than anyone else all the sweetness you’re burying under that loud, tough-guy, rambunctious façade (that is known to occasionally grunt “Men eat meat!”).


But if you decide to keep naps for a little while longer, I want you to know that would be great.

Happy 4th birthday, Tyson Steven!

Love forever and ever,