The Pleasant Farm

Life & Family

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!



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,



Dear (Stay Young) Trent & Tyson January 8, 2017

Filed under: My kid's growing up! — Jess Z. @ 9:08 pm
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Dear Trent & Tyson,

Man, are you guys annoying.  One of you can’t even put on your own shoes yet, and I have to remind you to use the potty or you’ll end up having an accident.  The other one of you insists on having everything cut up before you eat it, as if it’s a terrible thing to pick up a piece of pizza with your hands & take a bite.  Neither of you can get yourselves completely buckled or unbuckled from the car seats, which means I have to weather the elements to do it for you.  And it’s freaking cold right now.

But you know what?  I’m still one of your favorite people, even when I’m the one who put you in time out.  When you wake up in the morning, you are looking for me or Daddy– you’re not checking your phone first thing in the morning to see what Rick or Paul had to say about each other, or to see if Sheila changed her profile picture.  And there is never a point in the day where someone is sending you a cruel, disappearing Snapchat that threatens to change your entire self-worth.  Please, stay young.

Right now, I get to completely protect you.  If we go to a playground and there’s a bully, we can leave.  But someday you’ll be in school, surrounded by all sorts of people who might be plain mean, fighting through some of their own personal battles, or even just misunderstood.  And when those kids make you second guess your worth or hurt your feelings, I won’t be able to swoop in, grab you around the waist, and escape to the car– partly because you’ll both probably be taller than me & it wouldn’t be physically possible.   So instead, please stay young.

I don’t like putting on shoes & buckling seatbelts.  But I promise to put on your shoes, buckle you in, & even wipe your butt forever & ever if only I could get the two of you to make some promises to me.

I wish I could make you promise never to even start a Facebook or Snapchat or whatever other social media of the future will be; awfully ironic as I type this, don’t you think?  I ask you to promise me to remember who you are– you are both very wanted & very loved children, surrounded by people who love you for exactly who you are and for the goals you are reaching.  Promise me you will never let anyone put a doubt in your mind that you might not be good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough.  Promise me that when kids are cruel, you two will be able to look beyond the moment & recognize the real truths.  Promise me you’ll find friends who build each other up & support each other, not “friends” who will manipulate or insist that they always be #1 even with a cost of tearing you down.  Promise me that even though there will come a day when you won’t come from your bedroom in the morning to climb in my lap, you might still wake up looking forward to starting your day with my encouragement (note to self: be more encouraging).

Maybe you can’t make these promises, because growing up is just tough.  (Which at least means that someday I won’t be wiping butts!)  So I will go ahead and warn you that I’m going to need a lot of help learning when to offer advice and when to stay silent, when to reach out with a hug and when to give space, when to try to make a new rule and when to let the two of you keep growing up.  My job will be to make sure you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are loved.  And sometimes I’ll mess up & approach such a basic fundamental all wrong.  It would all be easier for you to just stay young.

The reminders are frequent, which I’m thankful for: reminders to cuddle with you on my lap.  Steal kisses in public.  Hold hands even when you’re already safe.  It sucks to realize that I can’t keep you young, I can’t protect you forever, and I can’t promise to stop all the words & actions of others that will burn you in the future.  So what can I do?

I can spend every day openly loving you, and be thankful for these years of young innocence– even while I’m wiping butts & buckling seatbelts.

Love you forever & ever, BOTH of you,





Dear Trent & Tyson (on Veterans Day) November 10, 2016

Filed under: Family — Jess Z. @ 9:38 pm
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Dear Trent and Tyson,

Tonight we had a unique opportunity to watch your dad talk to some school-aged kids about Veterans Day and his story of being a soldier.  I was so excited at the idea that this would be the very first time that you guys would see your dad in his Army uniform, so we tagged along.  Before we left the house, Tyson asked “Why are you wearing camouflage?” but the curiosity didn’t really spread from there and the evening was mostly spent with me trying to discretely tell you to sit still and stay quiet (any bets whether that was successful?).

So, you guys aren’t going to bed tonight with any sudden insights into your dad’s past.  You didn’t want to know what any of the patches on his uniform meant.  You didn’t ask why he wears pins on his left chest.  You didn’t wonder which ends of the earth that uniform had taken him, or what memories were made that he’d rather forget but instead play a role in the nights he’s awake while we sleep.

The kids there did get to hear why he joined the Army at the age of 17, although I’m sure they have an extremely limited understanding of 9/11 and its impact.  Maybe one of them will remember that a kid who doesn’t go straight to college from high school can still be on a path to do amazing things, or even end up on a Dean’s List later in life.

My message to you today, to hopefully understand later in life, is that you live a blessed life to have Daddy as your role model.  He is tough on you because respect, discipline, and integrity are important characteristics to learn early in life, but you know just how deeply his love runs for you because he gives it freely– he knows that the two of you are the highest priority in his life.  He will provide everything you need, but also ensure that you take none of it for granted.  You will learn the value of hard work and the pride that comes from completing tasks independently, but you will always have someone to lean on.  He won’t be the one to whine to when you feel like you’re starving or tired or too hot or too cold (you can trust me on that one); he doesn’t have much patience for the complaints of people who are hardly in a difficult situation.  But you will always have someone to undoubtedly turn to when you find yourself struggling.


I don’t know much about raising boys and I’m basically in on-the-job training all day, every day.  But I’m learning from Daddy that the best I can do for you is to support you in all things you feel passionate about, and I’m preparing myself for that day when you two discover what that may be.  And in the case that either or both of you choose the military, and in the case you decide that journey should start at the incredibly young age of 17 and someone is asking for my consent, I’m hoping I can be strong enough to hide any hesitation.  To follow in Dad’s footsteps to serve our country would be a noble and worthy calling.

I look forward to the day when you boys finally do ask questions, learn your father’s history, and start to realize what amazing sacrifice and bravery built this great nation.  I know that someday you’ll look at Daddy’s uniform and feel your heart swell with pride– it’s a humbling feeling to have that personal glimpse into a story of patriotism and selflessness.

I love you boys forever and ever, and am so glad for your Daddy.



Dear (Preschool) Tyson September 6, 2016

Filed under: Family,My kid's growing up! — Jess Z. @ 11:29 am
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Dear Tyson,

We’ve talked a lot about it, read some books where the main character gets dropped off at school but Mommy always comes back, and reminisced over dropping your big brother off for school.  And you’ve been confident all along, telling me “Miss Donna is very friendly!”  “Mom, you take Trent with you and then I’ll get two suckers so he can have one!” and even “I won’t be scared.”

And just like that, you’re off.  A big boy.

Trent may resemble your daddy a little more than you do, but you have his charm and ability to make people laugh.  I know you’ll be one of the class clowns, and probably not the first one to follow directions.  But you’ll learn so much and easily make friends.

Your teachers are sure to love your stories about farming and putting out fires, and I can’t wait to hear your stories of the projects you complete and songs you learn.  I’m so proud of the boy you’re becoming, because you’re so considerate, smart, and loving.  And I’m extra glad you get to spend a year being near your brother, a chance to step out from his Big Brother shadow but still have the encouragement of knowing he’s nearby.

Good luck on a great first year of preschool, baby boy!  I love you!

Love always,




Dear (One More Year… Hallelujah!) Trent August 25, 2016

Filed under: My kid's growing up!,Uncategorized — Jess Z. @ 8:10 pm
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Dear (One More Year… Hallelujah!) Trent,

It’s almost time for you to start preschool again.  And let me just say that I’m so glad you (I?) have one more year before the Land of Kindergarten!  I assure you—you are smart as a whip and would probably do just fine in a kindergarten-type setting, but oh shucks they have those durn cut-off dates.   So you will turn 5 years old on your second day of the 4-year-old Class at Peppermint Preschool and I will bask in the fact that I have you for one more year.


One more year of days together, where we can take advantage of weekday trips to the zoo and other attractions and avoid the crazies on the weekends.  One more year of afternoon cuddles on the couch, where I try to sleep through whatever crap you might be watching (seriously, Dino Trucks?  Angry Birds???) while you excitedly narrate it all.  One more year of that little taste of freedom while you’re at school, that really isn’t quite enough independence to even get out of town before it’s pick-up time.

One more year before you realize how different your family is… before anyone tries to figure out whether or not you have a stay-at-home mom, and what it means that your dad works for 24 hours at a time.  One more year before trying to explain that too often, goodnight kisses are through Skype but we always make up for it.  One more year before the other kids influence you to want some sort of craptastic toy that my own mother would have never wasted a penny on for me, and peers start bringing new words to your vocabulary that I probably won’t like.   One more year for you to be unabashedly you, so smart and funny, but also so incredibly sweet.  One more year for me to be on the receiving end of your random coats of kisses, another year before you might realize the other kids might not do the same thing.


You are such an amazing kid, and you hear it so often that I hope I’m not swelling your head.  It makes me feel so warm and fuzzy all over to see how you and your little brother interact.  If he is scared of an unfamiliar place or a goofy dog, you calm his fears with your words of encouragement and by so often reaching for his hand.  You are the epitome of the phrase “big brother” and I know that when he feels unsure about starting his own preschool class, we will bring him peace by assuring him you are right down the hall.  You will see some kids from last year, and make new friends too.  And for any of the kids that aren’t quite your cup of tea, or don’t fancy you to be theirs, remember that you don’t have to be buddies to be kind.  Please be kind.


I’m excited to see where another year of preschool takes you, because it was amazing to watch your progress last year.  I will fill another binder with your projects and pictures, and you will probably tell me “I can’t tell you” when I ask about how school went—even though apparently little girls love to share all the details from their day.


So off you will go, to a land of letters and crayons and Playdoh and silly songs.  And while it’s such a privilege to watch you grow and learn, I’ll continue celebrating the fact that while so many moms are braving kindergarten, I have one more year with my baby.

I love you, I’m proud of you, please keep the kisses coming,




Dear (Broken-Arm) Tyson May 31, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jess Z. @ 2:55 pm
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Dear Tyson,

Do you want to know how much I regret that I told you “I can’t right now” when you said “I want to hold you” this morning?  I should’ve picked up you up and squeezed you tight & dealt with everything else I was doing at the time a little later.

Our normal Tuesday morning is chores, then to the gym so I can get a workout in while you & Trent play at the daycare there before we all go to the pool.  Then we usually go to Ninth Street for lunch because I’m lazy & I still tend to hope you might fall asleep on the way home, even though it’s been awhile since that’s actually happened.  This morning was different because you’re potty training, so I left bootcamp twice to get you to the potty.  You were a champ & kept your big boy undies dry!  Then just as I was headed to rinse off & get in my swimsuit, they paged me to the daycare.  I laughed (not a true happy-laugh, but an ironic-laugh) and asked your aunt Julie if we thought it was poop or pee they were calling me for, assuming you had a potty accident.  But then another friend came in & asked if they’d gotten a hold of me yet because you were hurt & that super-sucky feeling of my heart sinking to my toes hit hard.

You were crying & they said you hurt your arm on the slide.  I thought it was surely no big deal, but it looked just a little goofy right above your elbow.  So your paramedic mom, who is the first to stand on a soapbox and say “take your hurt kid to the pediatric hospital and do not pass go at the community one” carried you to my truck while you screamed & I tried to hold your arm in place, and drove you the mile to the little hospital.  You didn’t stop screaming.   I hoped that they might say it was a tiny dislocation that they could fix, but after listening to you scream in a way that my tough little boy doesn’t scream, I feared we’d be headed to a pediatric hospital anyway.  Of course I wouldn’t want you to have to make the trip in an ambulance but that’s what we did– with you saying “Mommy come with me in the ambulance!” while they placed you on their stretcher.  Oh sweet boy, they weren’t taking you anywhere without ME.


So here we are, sitting at the ER at Cardinal Glennon.  It’s now been over 4 hours since I thought we were headed to the pool.  At this point, we know you fractured your humerus right above the elbow & they want to do surgery to place a pin.  But we don’t know when & the waiting game is terrible.


You’re sleeping, covered in the baby blanket your aunt made you & with your froggy in your good arm– both of which your awesome grandma brought to us at the first hospital because we are so blessed that she will drop everything & run to us.  Listening to you softly snore is a reminder that you will truly be okay, and there are roughly 600,388 other things that could be happening to you that would easily fall into the category of WORSE THAN A BROKEN BONE.


Thankfully, your aunt was at the rec center to take care of your brother so that stinker still got to go to the pool.  And thankfully, your grandma came to hold you at the ER when I had to run to the potty.  And thankfully, a whole slew of friends & family have texted to ask how they can help us out.  And thankfully, we got an ambulance with an awesome crew who didn’t make me feel like crap for not taking my hurt kid straight to the pediatric hospital.  And thankfully, your daddy was able to leave his fire academy for a bit to meet us right at the ambulance when we made it across the river.  Little man, you & I are incredibly blessed.


While we wait, I’ll pray.  While you snore, I’ll get my priorities straight.  While the doctors make a plan, I’ll pray some more & remember all the things we are thankful for.


It’s just a bone.  It is a crappy way to start summer & I really have no idea what we’re in for.  But hallelujah, it’s just a bone.  So together, we’ll carry on & have some stories to tell!

Love you forever & ever, and here to cover you with kisses until they kick me out,