The Pleasant Farm

Life & Family

Dear (Five-Year-Old) Tyson May 22, 2018

Filed under: Family,My kid's growing up! — Jess Z. @ 7:35 pm
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Dear (Five-Year-Old) Tyson,

This is what happened. I had told your brother to keep his cup at the table because I didn’t want a spill in my living room. So when I saw him by the couch and reminded him of the rule again, and 5 seconds later I heard the spilling noise, I wasn’t feeling very patient or understanding. After I told him in some less-than-loving way that THIS IS WHY I SAID TO KEEP IT ON THE TABLE (don’t pretend you would’ve been loving!), he moped off to his room and you followed him.

I went about my business cleaning the mess and doing some dishes, which is where I was when I heard you come back down the hallway. You stomped angrily right up to me, exuding the dominance and power of a giant, with your chest puffed out and elbows back. Your face was the epitome of what we’ve come to call your “f-u face” because you convey all of your current feelings in that expression, quite appropriately. There were even a couple snarls, as I looked at you with my own “go ahead and try me” expression, and you went back to comfort your brother.

This is who you are. Force, strength, and intensity who also fiercely loves and defends.

As I looked back at your other birthday letters, it was clear you have been Tyson all along. When you turned one, I said “You’re going to keep growing at a lightning speed and I’ll be right there with you, trying to fix the boo-boos, and forcing myself to give you the independence to wander and discover.” The Good Lord knew then that I had no idea what the extent of boo-boos would be even by the 5th birthday, and who knows what is still to come! (Don’t think about it…) When you turned two, I said “You’ve earned the nickname Stinker, but I wouldn’t trade your ornery-ness for the world.” Still so true! At your third birthday, I wrote a list of words that describe you and the list included ornery, funny, snuggly, and playful. I went on to say “You are feisty and sweet. You are handsome and strong.” And just last year, emulating much of the same, I wrote “you are ornery and feisty, and you have a way of making people laugh.” All the people who know and love you are nodding along at all the years of personality traits and agreeing that you really haven’t changed.

The best way I have found to describe you is to say you are 100%. When you are mad, you are 100% mad (see above example). When you are feeling goofy, it is all the way goofy. When you’re done being cooperative and patient, you are 100% done.  And when you are feeling sweet, cuddly, and loving, you take it all the way to 100% still.

Last night we watched you graduate from preschool. We’ve already sat in your classroom for kindergarten, and you’ve been watching what will soon be your bus for the last 9 months. You were the only kid in your preschool class (I think) who won the Listening Award 3 times, and it is somewhat mind-boggling to your dad and I that our spit-and-vinegar kid is the example of a star student. You must have kept all your energy for when you got home!


New to the last year is your infatuation with all things Army and soldier. You love dressing up, building forts, and having shoot-outs with Dad… especially when he gets all dressed up in his uniform too. You still love going to the farm, getting as dirty as possible, and being anywhere where your brother might be. You love playing with Legos, but would rather put blocks together to create something completely unique and leave the intricate directions to Trent to figure out.

But for all the energy, all the crazy, and all the ornery, holy cow are you one sweet kid. When you are ready to cuddle, you are the best at it. You still love being wrapped up in your Paw Patrol blanket and find your frog lovie before bed. And no matter how big you get, or how big your attitude is at any given moment, I always look forward to feeling the weight of you on my lap, my nose in your hair, and the bits of skin that slip out from your blanket because chances are that if you’re not in an Army uniform, you’re as naked as you know you can get away with. And I love every single thing about you, even during the times you’re snarling at me.

We are beyond blessed that you completed our family, and your brother is lucky to always have you to defend him. For as long as I am your mama and your daddy is your hero, our baby you’ll be.  Happy 5th Birthday Tyson Steven!
Love forever and ever,


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,



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!



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,