The Pleasant Farm

Life & Family

Bright Beacon of Light April 19, 2017

Filed under: Pictures to Share — Jess Z. @ 10:06 am
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Writing is often a way for me to sort through my thoughts and try to make sense of life.  It’s also a way for me to document events and feelings so that once time has made my memory fuzzy (and it doesn’t take much time) and my emotions have dulled, I can better recall how life felt at that particular moment.  This is especially why I write letters to my boys, who can’t comprehend much of what goes on at this point in their lives; unless you consider the fact that Thomas is the #1 engine to be significant.  But while I enjoy writing, I also have a deep appreciation for good writing.  So with permission, I want to share a speech here that was written by Todd’s EMS Chief, J. Brian Wilson.

On Monday night, April 17, the team who was involved with that memorable morning last month was recognized at the Highland City Council meeting.  This team consisted of 2 paramedics, 4 police officers, and the often unrecognized telecommunicator responsible for answering 911 calls then sorting and disseminating crucial information.  There, Chief Wilson delivered this speech and I’d like to share it now, for anyone else who isn’t tired of hearing about these amazing first responders and that fateful rescue.

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“Good evening Mr. Mayor and members of the City Council.

As you are aware, we are here tonight to honor these public safety professionals for their courage and selfless efforts that led to saving an infant from the frigid waters of Silver Lake on the morning of March 16, 2017.

When we recall the events of those early morning hours, we quickly realize just how much worse that terrible tragedy could have been.  Yet we are here tonight, honoring this group of first responders, whose combined efforts provided a bright beacon of light during an otherwise dark day.

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Everything fell into place perfectly that morning, from a witness who saw the vehicle go into the water and called 911, to the timely dispatch of police, fire, and EMS units, to a shortened response time of units already on the street, to a well-trained team of professional first responders dedicated to public safety.  Although he didn’t know it, little Julian Campbell had every possible advantage going his way.

Like any championship team, each member of this team played a crucial role in the ultimate outcome that we all hoped for: that being the saving of a human life.  Without each one of them, the outcome could have been far different.

Also like any championship team, this team had a most valuable player, who both risked and contributed a little bit more to this happy outcome.

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Although we recognize them here tonight for this high profile success story, this group, and others like them, do not consider their actions unusual.  Nor do they consider themselves heroes.

They are used to providing high-quality service to complete strangers each and every day, often at great personal risk.  This is what they are trained for.  This is what they do.  To them, this was all in a day’s work.

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They have been very gracious and appreciative of the many honors bestowed upon them.  Yet, I can assure you, their motivations lie solely with the safety of our public, irrespective of media coverage of personal accolades.

Thank you.”

 

 

Dear (Preschool) Trent September 1, 2015

Filed under: My kid's growing up!,Pictures to Share — Jess Z. @ 2:40 pm
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Dear Trent,

We made it!  This morning was your very first day of preschool, a day that we’ve all been looking forward to.  Ever since you played with their trains at the open house last spring, you’ve been asking when you get to go to school.

A couple months… a couple weeks… a couple days… it’s time to go!!!

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Daddy & I have been looking forward to today because we know how much you’ll learn and all the fun you’ll have with your friends.  It’s true that you’re pretty durn smart, but there’s no reason not to push you further!  I guess it’s erroneous to say we’ve all been looking forward to today, because if Tyson had a few more verbal skills, you and I both know he would tell us what he really thinks about this business of you being separated from him.

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But it will be so good for him too.  He’ll have a little more opportunity to find his own voice, do his own activities, and have his mommy and daddy to himself… just a little bit!

I'm amazed how alike they look in this picture, with identical expressions!

I’m amazed how alike they look in this picture, with identical expressions!

On our way, you were in a good mood.  I gave you the best advice I had: Don’t be mean to the other kids or no one will want to play with you.  Cover your mouth if you have to cough.  Wipe your butt if you have to poop.

Yep, that’s all I had for First Day advice.  But you answered “Okay Mommy!” anyway.  I said you would have so much fun, and you told me “Make sure you come back, okay?”  I knew we were golden.

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I told you that I wanted to grab a picture of you heading towards the building, but you were a little too fast and the picture is a little too blurry.  But still precious!  Once inside, Miss Donna told you that you could go find something to play with and you were gone.

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That was it.  Today was only an hour orientation before “real” school starts tomorrow, but we’ve all survived the trial run and you were a rockstar.

For the next 20 years or so, you’ll be going to school.  Some days, you’ll look forward to it.  And some days we’ll have to drag you to the door and push you inside.  So shouldn’t I have some more advice?

From the start of this preschool business, my fear has been simply that in someone else’s eyes who is watching you grow, you might not be the most handsome, the funniest, or the smartest.  I realize that all of these truths will help mold you into a young man who will hopefully not care what everyone’s opinion of you may be, work hard for everything you achieve, strive further to reach the goals that you initially don’t conquer, and find the ways that your own personality can bring sunshine to others.  So this is my advice for your next 20 years in school:

When you aren’t the most handsome boy in the eyes of a teacher or a bully or a girl (geesh, for real?), you ARE the most handsome to me.  When you aren’t considered the funniest or most clever in your class, you still are the one most likely to make me laugh and smile.  And when you don’t have the highest grade, or don’t make a very good grade at all, I hope you will know that I realize your potential nonetheless and will support you in every way I can (except math.  But don’t worry, I have a plan for that department which involves your incredibly intelligent aunts.).

I made it through your first day of preschool without shedding a tear.  Until now.

You are my precious, handsome, funny, and smart little boy and you have a future of endless possibility.  And your school career has officially begun!  Congratulations, Trent!

Love forever and ever, and I will always come back,

Mommy

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Kentucky Bourbon Trail June 27, 2014

The rules are simple.

No eating at a restaurant that could be considered a chain.  No shaving for the guys.  No shoes that require socks.  No mentioning certain people– names that fire up a negative atmosphere and anger.

The unwritten rules of traveling with friends who are a great couple and amazing travel partners include no drama, no competition, no assumptions, no jealousy, and no judging.  Got that?

Now that you’re aware of the rules, join us on our mini-vacation along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!

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The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is made up of 8 bourbon distilleries who invite visitors to learn about the history of bourbon, tour their facilities, and spend money at their gift shops.  There’s way more than 8 distillers of bourbon, but visiting the 8 who have joined the “country club” of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail will award each visitor a stamp in their passport; collecting all 8 stamps results in a free Bourbon Trail t-shirt.  The four of us got a taste of the trail 4 years ago, as we made our way homeward from a white-water rafting vacation in West Virginia.  Since we were unable at the time to commit to making it through the whole trail, we swore that someday we would return.

Since we’d been on tours of some distilleries before, part of me thought that there wouldn’t be much more to learn.  Man was I wrong!  We learned more about what specifications a “bourbon” must adhere to, charring the barrels, why Kentucky has the ideal climate, and the million variations that each bourbon can take.  It’s so interesting to learn about the history of bourbon from multiple points of view.  For example, the effects of Prohibition were different between each distillery; a couple were even allowed to stay in production!  We were also shared a Master Distiller’s opinion on how to best enjoy a fine bourbon: put a layer  of crushed ice in a rocks glass, pour two-fingerbreadths of bourbon on top, and sip slowly over 2-3 hours.

Buffalo Trace

The first distillery we visited was Buffalo Trace; one that isn’t included on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and one that we had visited prior.  Buffalo Trace is home to dozens of varieties across multiple brands besides Buffalo Trace, including Eagle Rare, Pappy Van Winkle, Blanton’s, Sazerac Rye, Benchmark.  At a restaurant in Lexington, a shot of the Pappy Van Winkle would cost $100 because of its limited availability.  Since we’d done the tour in the past, we skipped straight to the tasting (but this is a beautiful distillery with a very worthwhile tour!).  We tasted the Eagle Rare Single Barrel and Buffalo Trace, but passed on a taste of their vodka.  The tasting ended with a delicious bourbon ball.

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Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace

Town Branch

The Town Branch Distillery just might be a hidden gem of Lexington; from what we gathered, most people don’t really realize it’s right there in town.  Their claim to fame is their beer, which is brewed in the charred bourbon barrels after the bourbon is removed.  We decided to pass on a tour, but ended up with a personalized tasting from a feller named Tyler who taught us a lot about bourbon and tricks to appreciating it.  Five stars!

Town Branch

Town Branch

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Town Branch – Bourbon Buddies

Woodford Reserve

The Distiller’s Select Woodford Reserve is a staple at our house so we were excited to make a return trip here.  Some things have changed in a few years though, because we weren’t allowed any tasting without paying for a tour.  But we enjoyed the grounds; Woodford Reserve is in one of the most beautiful areas of Kentucky and their bourbon balls are also delicious!

Woodford Reserve - Best Friends FOREVER! (and free counseling for me)

Woodford Reserve – Best Friends FOREVER! (and free counseling for me)

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve – a Mary sandwich!

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey made our trip the last time, and we all remembered being pretty disappointed by their visitor’s center… but hey, we’d have to make a stop in for our Kentucky Bourbon Trail stamp!  As we followed the signs, we were delighted to find they have done a massive rebuild for visitors, with a great history lesson inside.  We missed out on tastings again, but Joe came home with a variety called Forgiven which was created by an employee’s mistake; turns out, her mistake was pretty tasty and so all was forgiven (and she even got to keep her job).

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Four Roses

Four Roses and Wild Turkey are two distilleries on the tour that are actually neighbors and not a lengthy, swervy trip in between.  We seemed to recall being pressed for time at our last visit here, so we took it a step further and participated in their history lesson and tasting.  On the National Registry of Historic Places, Four Roses has a look unlike any of the others which stems from the original owner’s affection for the Spanish style architecture that was spreading through wine country in California.  Just don’t ask Joe about that.

Four Roses

Four Roses

Four Roses

Four Roses

Four Roses

Four Roses

Four Roses

Four Roses

Heaven Hill

This distillery is home to more brands and varieties than I ever could’ve imagined: Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Larceny, and a Heaven Hill select Stock bottled at $250 each, to name a few.  We watched a video in their theater and had two tastes of their products, along with a very nice lesson on how to drink bourbon.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

Willett

Willett Distillery was on Joe’s Must-Stop list; it might not be on the official trail, but it’s a smaller, family-owned distillery with a one-of-a-kind bottle that also happens to be filled with one of Joe’s favorites.  We skipped the tour but had a hilarious independent tasting with a gal who has been waiting for 4 years for a certain type of ring that will officially include her in the Willett family (and had also been in 4-H).  She said we could each have 2 tastes of their products as long as we hadn’t already visited 5 distilleries that day, and we were able to lie without hesitation.

Willett

Willett

Willett

Willett – a distinguished bottle.

Willett

Willett

Maker’s Mark

When we make it back for another round of The Kentucky Bourbon Trail (maybe in another 4 years), the guided tour of Maker’s Mark will be on our To-Do list.  Our self-guided tour of their absolutely beautiful grounds made us wish we had gotten in on the opportunity to see everything backstage too (and have a couple tastings).  Todd offered one worker $100 for a private tour, but after the confusion wore off, he said we’d have to wait until 5pm when he would officially be off work.  Since this was our final stop on a long day, we may have missed the last tour but still enjoyed their gift shop where Todd even got to dip his own bottle.

Maker's Mark - two firemen in front of the fire truck.

Maker’s Mark – two firemen in front of the fire truck.

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark

Jim Beam

Jim Beam Distillery was our first stop of a new day after a refreshing night in Louisville.  It is a very well-maintained campus, with a self-guided tour that was very educational.  At the tour’s final stop before the gift shop, we each got to choose 2 tastings from the many varieties produced here.  These include Jim Beam, Red Stag, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s, and Baker’s.  The technologically-savvy way to choose a tasting was neat, but we missed individualized attention.

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam - Bourbon Buddies

Jim Beam – Bourbon Buddies

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam - Joe got individual attention as always!

Jim Beam – Joe got individual attention as always!

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam Experience

Warning: I don’t have much good to say about the Jim Beam Experience which is located in downtown Louisville.  They have nice restroom facilities, and this was where we received the final stamp on our Kentucky Bourbon Trail passports.  Otherwise, it’s a costly tourist trap that we didn’t spend much time patronizing.  But they did have a nice sign for us to hold during a photo opportunity to commemorate our victory over the trail!

Jim Beam Experience

Jim Beam Experience

Some of the highlights from our trip are stories and happenings and pictures that are better left protected.  We had an incredible mini-vacation: one distillery on Day One, seven on Day Two, and wrapped up with two on Day Three.  I can almost guarantee the four of us will make another trip to taste bourbon in Kentucky, because the experience is that awesome.  The distilleries do a great job of sharing their stories and welcoming visitors, and the cities in Kentucky are (mostly) friendly places that are perfect for an evening sitting outside while sipping fine bourbon with fine friends.

So get your butts down to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!  And get a free t-shirt while you’re at it!

 

What I Learned In College June 1, 2014

Sometimes people think that the goal of attending college is to earn a degree, seek employment in that area of profession, and carry out a career until retirement.  While that may be the case for some, the percentage of people who attend college only to find their career path make a surprising turn must be significant, considering the number of people I personally know who fall into this category.  My own life story includes earning a degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I took classes to specialize my degree towards dairy herd management.  Fast-forward a few years, and my story will tell you that I became employed into a full-time position as a paramedic.  Well hmmm.  Guess those college years were wasted, right?

It shocks me how often people make an assumption: that if I’m not “using” my degree, then the time and money spent earning said degree were wasted.  I happen to find it easy to argue that point, with a few points of my own.  And thus, I present to you, what I learned in college.

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1.  I’m in charge of me.

Wake up on time.  Get to where I’m expected to be on time.  Go to bed on time.  Pick up my groceries, wash my laundry, pay my bills.  In college, I figured out pretty quickly that no one was going to do any of these things for me, or remind me to do them.  And who suffered the consequences if I didn’t get to class on time or buy a gallon of milk?  Just me.  Now, I have children who would suffer the consequences if I didn’t have my shit in order.  But in college, I learned that I was no longer someone else’s responsibility and that I’m quite capable of being independent.

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2.  Eating right is hard.

I grew up in a house where each meal arrived to the table without my active participation in choosing it or creating it.  We ate what was served (except I just can’t eat beets and I’m pretty sure my sister still avoids lima beans) and didn’t really appreciate how well the Food Pyramid was represented around the clock (thanks Mom).  Then I got to college and was given a magical card that let me into the dining hall, where anything and everything was fair game.  No one would question me if I ate three bowls of Lucky Charms.  I thought a bagel every morning was a grand idea because I wasn’t used to having free access to bagels.  Even though I like vegetables, it was hard to remember to toss them onto the tray next to whatever caught my eye.  I don’t recall fitting the stereotype of “The Freshman 15” but I learned that I really didn’t have the metabolism to eat whatever I wanted.  In the dorm near mine, there was a late night cafeteria that served an array of things fried and dripping with grease.  With that same magical card, I could go grab a pizza and fried cheese sticks; somehow, the idea that those things were there and “free” made it a bedtime decision that didn’t take much convincing.  At some point, I realized that those pizzas were barely palatable and instead of eating late night crap, I could just go to bed.  Oh yeah… I learned that eating right takes a lot of thought and active participation.

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3.  Money matters.

I was blessed with the American Dream life of two hardworking parents who chose to financially support their children through college.  I didn’t have a clue at the time what that actually meant, or that other kids would be sitting next to me in class and paying tuition bills on their own.  I did know I needed to apply for every scholarship that might consider me, and I knew I was expected to be employed and earn my own money.  During this same time, I got my very first credit card and was responsible for paying my own bills and making rent payments.  I had to keep a checkbook balance and actually do the math; I had to watch dates on the calendar for when bills were due, and sometimes wait for Pay Day.  I learned to appreciate gifts, earn my keep, and worry about money (not a fun skill, but a skill nonetheless).  And in the years following graduation, I’ve come to realize the full extent of how damn lucky I am to have had my tuition paid.

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4.  Sisters can be friends.

Growing up, you’re stuck with your siblings.  You’re stuck sitting next to them at the dinner table, maybe stuck sharing a room, often stuck sharing a car or a hobby.  I never classified my relationships with each of my three sisters while growing up as anything other than “sister”; I never knew any different.  When I went to college, my older sister who I was forced to share space with at home became the wise, experienced one who I would choose to meet for lunch (and who got me through chemistry).  Then she graduated and my younger sister showed up on campus, and we developed a friendship that went beyond sisterhood too.  The great thing about being on campus with a sister is you can do all the fun “sister” things, then everyone goes home to their own space!  Then everyone is out of school, married with kids, living lives with careers and separate addresses… and I realize that the growing-up part of having siblings is a tiny chunk of time compared to the friends-forever part.

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5.  Report cards don’t get sent home.

An A is great to brag about.  The rest of the alphabet?  Not so much.  But if someone is investing in your education and personally cares about your successes, I feel like that person is owed a regular update on how classes are going (even if the answer is “Not so great.”).  College is a good time to learn that Bs and Cs are okay (if that lesson wasn’t learned in high school).  I muddled my way through French, math, and chemistry because I had to, not because I enjoyed the material.  And I figured out that working towards a degree that involved a deeper understanding of any of those topics was not for me!

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6.  Extracurriculars are worth the time.

Oh hell yeah.  College is not defined by the classes in a schedule but how time is spent otherwise.  Maybe it’s running or reading or drinking or sleeping… but college is the perfect opportunity to be involved in true extracurriculars.  My college experience wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same without the Marching Illini, playing in the Basketball Band during home games, the Illini Dairy Club, being a member of the Illini Dairy Judging Team, or playing intramural sports.  Those groups are where my memories were made and where my closest friendships began.  I traveled for the first time in my life as part of my extracurriculars, and had experiences that I would have missed out on if I only studied.  Of all the pictures I have from my years on campus, I can’t find a single one of me studying in the library.

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7.  Some friends are forever.

And some aren’t, and that’s okay too.  But the friends who know me today and knew me in college have seen my life come full circle and been supportive the whole way.  These are the friends who I have shared some of the most awesome experiences with, from a time in my life that will never be recreated (no kids, no responsibilities, no major bills).  These friends understand what it means to “bleed orange and blue” and feel the same warm, fuzzy feelings of returning to campus.  They also share the same dismay of returning to campus and not recognizing half of the buildings… we haven’t been gone for that long, right???

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8.  Oh wait, I don’t have it all figured out?

In high school, everything seemed black and white.  Then I went to college and everything that was “black and white” became gray and fuzzy.  Turns out, our world isn’t so black and white either.  Things change, people change, realities change.  But we still set goals, make achievements, and hopefully spend time with the “extracurriculars” that make tomorrow worth looking forward to.  Nope, I don’t have it all figured out even at this point.  I have my family and my friends, and the rest keeps sorting itself out on some wacky but trusted journey.  My experiences in college were a great stepping stone to figuring out how to make life worth living, even if I failed at choosing a major that would define my life ten years later.

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I wouldn’t choose to have my life today any different from how it is.  I spend time at the farm (see, using my degree!), enjoy my job, and have the best, most handsome group of fellas living under my roof and filling my heart.  Part of my journey to where I am now included four of the best years of my life studying at the U of I, growing friendships and making memories.  My name isn’t engraved on a Bronze Tablet of insane smartness (like my sisters Jenny and Julie, kudos!) but it is somewhere in the Animal Science Lab on a plaque for something or another.  Looking through these pictures reminds me of so many awesome experiences I had shoved into those 4 years, and I’ll have those memories for the rest of my life.  Along with some retained knowledge about ruminant nutrition and reproductive health in dairy cattle, of course.

Just don’t ask me a single thing about chemistry.

 

It’s Fun To Be ONE!!! September 14, 2012

Filed under: My kid's growing up!,Pictures to Share — Jess Z. @ 12:58 pm
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It’s fun to be one-year-old!

It’s fun to be able to move around at the speed of lightning, pull up on anything and everything, grab at anything within reach, and create havoc!

It’s fun to show an entire range of emotion and personality: delighted, unsure, stubborn, cranky, terribly upset.  But you’re a lucky little boy– you don’t know lonely or neglected.

It’s fun to play games like peek-a-boo, throw-everything-on-the-floor, ram-head-into-Daddy, and fall-on-butt-to-make-people-giggle.

It’s fun to flip through book after book after book after book, sometimes for as long as 20 or 30 minutes at a time.  Will this keep up as you grow?  Or will I be fighting a ten-year-old Trent to “get that book out of your bag and do your homework!!!”?

It’s fun to sing silly songs, even the ones we make up as we go.  It’s fun to dance to music and clap hands!

It’s fun to watch you grow, help you learn, and be one of your favorite people.  It’s fun to watch the smiles you bring to everyone else on this earth.  It’s gonna be fun for years and years and years to come!

Happy Birthday, (not-so) Baby Boy!

 

 

Put Me In The Zoo September 4, 2012

Filed under: Pictures to Share — Jess Z. @ 7:34 pm
Tags: ,

In honor of Trent’s first trip to the zoo, I present to you his favorite zoo-themed book: Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire (a Dr. Seuss Bright and Early board book).

I will go into the zoo.  I want to see it.  Yes, I do.

We do not want you in the zoo.  Out you go!  Out!  Out with you!

Why did the put me out this way?  I should be in.  I want to stay.

Just wait and see what I can do.  Look!  Now all his spots are blue!

And now his spots are orange!  Say!  He looks very good that way.

Now look at this!  What do you see?  Spots as green as green can be!

Violet spots!  Say!  You are good!  Do more!  Do more!  We wish you would.

I can do more.  Look!  This is new.  Blue orange, green, and violet too.

Oh!  They would put me in the zoo, if they could see what I can do.

We like all the things you do.  We like your spots, we like you, too.

But with all the things that you can do, the circus is the place for you!

Yes!  This is where I want to be!  The circus is the place for me!

 

Wife Of The Year August 10, 2012

Filed under: Pictures to Share — Jess Z. @ 8:48 pm
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It’s official.  I am Wife of the Year.

No, my trophy hasn’t arrived yet.  I’m actually not certain if Todd has even submitted my nomination.  But I am absolutely positive that the title is mine!

After last Christmas passed with Todd making a couple of comments about wishing he could get an AR-15 someday, I was chatting with a coworker and mentioned what sat on top of Todd’s wish list.  The coworker introduced me to a class he had taken with some buddies at Patriot Supply in Ashland, Missouri: a class that involved building an entire AR-15, customizing the gun to each person’s preferences, and then taking it home to keep.  And the entire process would be cheaper than stocked AR-15s available at gun shops.  He assured me that for a dude, it was better than Christmas.

Well, they’d be cheaper until the person building the gun accessorizes with a variety of upgrade options.  And those options, I’m learning, are apparently endless.  And potentially extremely expensive.

So my idea was born that as a gift for Todd, I could buy the class for him and hopefully even line up some of his buddies who might also be interested in spending money (errr… investing?) on an AR-15.  They could take a Man Day together, build and customize their rifles, and come home with enough happiness to last for days.  And considering I planned this to be a gift for Todd to cover Father’s Day, his birthday, and well into Christmas, that happiness would be best to last until the end of the year… at least.

Three other guys were on-board right away and we started the process of getting the class lined up.  At this point, Todd didn’t have a clue about it– so here I am on the phone with this guy trying to talk .223 and 5.56, M-4 upgrades, ammo deals.  It was a bit overwhelming.  Each guy was responsible for getting a lower receiver (basically a metal block which includes the gun’s serial number and is therefore the gun; everything else gets built onto it).  Then we waited… and waited… and waited… for Patriot Supply to acquire all the parts the guys would need to successfully complete their rifles.

I was initially hoping that by the time Todd’s birthday came in mid-July, the class would’ve happened.  But it hadn’t.  We had managed to keep it a secret for that long, which is a huge feat for me.  Let’s just say I have a tendency to get excited about gifts and spill the beans.  This time, it wasn’t me that spilled the beans.  But spill they did, and Todd was in the loop.  That’s okay though, the secret was  a ton of fun while it lasted!

The crew left at 11am on the day of the class, prepared for a roughly 3-hour drive.  They stopped for a late lunch in Columbia before taking the jog south to Ashland.  At Patriot Supply, they literally spent hours building their guns and playing around with custom options.  Each guy left with a different version of the same rifle, although all of them had a lower receiver engraved with the fire department logo.

Hours later, a few more hundreds of dollars had been spent on upgrades and bucket-loads of new knowledge were gained.  The guns were properly transported back home, where they returned somewhere around 1am.  That’s a full day of macho!

The next day, three of them came out to the farm to fire their AR-15s for the first time.  I guess it was really exciting.

I shot Todd’s rifle one time, and one time was really enough.

From what I’ve been told, they’re all really happy with the experience and the outcome.  The waiting game was  little stressful and their visit started a little sketchy, but in the end the world has 4 happy men ready for a zombie apocalypse.

Happy Father’s Day, Todd!  Happy Birthday!  Happy Labor Day, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas!

This is the shot I got when I told them to look menacing…