The Pleasant Farm

Life & Family

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.

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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!”).

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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,

Mommy

 

Dear Trent & Tyson (Daddy is a Hero), March 17, 2017

Filed under: Family — Jess Z. @ 5:47 pm
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Dear Trent & Tyson,

Whoa.  To say the last two days have been a whirlwind would be a ginormous understatement.  I don’t know how much you can understand at your ages, so in true form, I’d like to write you a letter that just might stay with you forever.  And maybe someday you’ll have a better realization of what the recent events have meant for your daddy… and for you.

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Here’s a nutshell, since I plan to include all the official reports in your scrapbooks for this year.  Your daddy was working on the ambulance (we visited him earlier that day; you played hide-and-seek and weren’t ready to go home for naps when I was) and got a call at 5:30 the next morning, before his shift would have ended at 7.  A car was seen driving into Silver Lake, and the ambulance crews and fire department were dispatched along with the police officers.  Your daddy spent the ride out to the scene emptying his pockets: phone, wallet, chapstick, keys.  Because he was ready to go in if he had to.

The police officers on scene verified that there was in fact a car in the water, headlights on.  So while Daddy’s partner handled the scene and radio traffic on land, Daddy jumped into the 46-degree water with just his pants on (oh yeah, and the air temperature was in the 20’s).  When he got to the car, he found an unresponsive 3-month-old baby boy, pulled him out of the vehicle and got onto the roof.  There, he performed CPR, wishing and praying the fire department was nearly on scene to rush to their assistance with cold water suits in a boat.  But, when he found out they’d been delayed by a train, he did what he had to do—jumped back into the water, swimming backwards while holding that baby above the water, and handed him over to his partner and the police officers on the shore.  That baby has already been released from the hospital in great health.

So, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of people who are excited over the fact that your daddy very honestly saved that baby’s life.  He was given the terrible circumstances of darkness and cold, oh yeah and being in a lake, and managed to literally save a life.  Turns out, the story has spread quite like wildfire.  Trent answered the door yesterday to a very well known news reporter from St. Louis, while Tyson stood smiling in his underwear.  Then we found out it had even made the Washington Post and led a congressman to give a speech and order a flag to be flown over the U.S. Capitol today.  Is this all really happening?  I don’t even know yet what tomorrow will bring!

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You are his sons.  Those are the shoes you will spend your lives trying to fill.  What do I want you to know?

I want you to know that before most people have a huge success, there’s so much work and commitment that goes into it first that people don’t even realize.  Yes, your dad did a very heroic thing yesterday.  But he loves his job, and makes sure he is always prepared for the worst of circumstances by studying and learning from those around him.  He also takes his fitness level very seriously, not by bragging about how many pull-ups he’s done or miles he’s logged on his last run, but by proving that he’s not only willing to put himself in a risky situation but physically strong enough to almost guarantee a positive outcome (because let’s be honest, there’s no guarantees).  He always makes sure to work as a team, the first to say that he didn’t want to do any interviews unless his partner was there with him.  He’s more prepared than most for the unexpected, which is why anyone in this little town who knows him also knew “it had to be Todd” when they heard there was a local paramedic who performed heroic actions during an unfortunate situation.  Because yes—of course it was Todd.  Not because he worked a miracle— he prepares himself daily to perform the most difficult tasks in difficult situations— but because he miraculously was in the right place at the right time, with the right skills and strength to see the incident through.

So know this.  You don’t have to pull an unresponsive baby out of a submerged car and then resuscitate the baby to be a hero.  You have to find something you’re passionate about, work hard daily to be the best at that job, and be prepared to be under-recognized for your efforts.  Maybe even for years.  And when people don’t always see how hard you work or note your dedication, do it all over again the next day anyway.

Always remember to keep your team close to you.  Keep up the good communication and always have each other’s backs.

Ignore the people who criticize you, whether it’s because they don’t understand your level of commitment or if it might be because they don’t think they could measure up.  Their opinions are not of any importance, nor should they change the direction of your goals.

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Our community, the reporters, and everyone else who hears this story are calling Daddy a hero.  And he’s saying “I’m not a hero, I was just doing my job.”  So do you want to follow in your daddy’s footsteps?  Be a rockstar at your job, whatever may be your passion, every stinking day.  And when all that hard work pays off with a big reward, be so humble and modest to truthfully say you were just performing for what you’ve prepared for.  You might be a farmer, or a teacher or architect or engineer or train engineer, you might be a construction worker or firefighter or banker—work hard, prepare for every situation, and then be a hero.

And you will be filling those very large shoes, filled by a man who loves you so very much and is an amazing role model of selflessness, bravery, and strength.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

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,

Mommy

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

Filed under: Family — Jess Z. @ 9:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.

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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.

Mommy

 

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,

Mommy

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Dear Daddy (On Father’s Day), from the boys June 19, 2016

Filed under: Family — Jess Z. @ 6:49 am
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Dear Daddy,

All the time Mommy is saying to SLOW DOWN!  SIT DOWN!  STAY INSIDE!  QUIT WRESTLING!

But you chase us to go faster, and we’re learning that it’s fun to be fast and that someday we just might outrun you.  And Mommy will be super happy if we decide to run cross country during football season.

And you don’t tell us to sit down, you go with us to the basement to build with train tracks and make forts.  You show us how to work together as a team and have even more fun.  We are crazy boys who don’t have time to sit down!  And someday we’ll be just like you, a long to-do list every day of tasks that will always include being productive, adding more knowledge to our brains, and jumping at every chance to help someone out.  It just might include a pager!

When Mommy says to stay inside, you run us outside.  It doesn’t matter if we’re spraying water through the hose, playing in the rock pit, climbing on the treehouse, buzzing around in the Gator, or playing on a bicycle.  And it sure doesn’t matter to us if it’s 100-degrees outside or we’re missing socks!  We are men and we need to be outside!  You teach us not to be afraid of heights even when Mommy refuses to watch, and we’re learning to be strong, brave, and capable.  While we’re outside, you’re also teaching us what it takes to build a treehouse: a plan, a goal, supplies at a discount, and pure hard work.  We are watching everything you do.

And you are the reason we wrestle while Mommy hides in the other room.  She always thinks someone’s going to get severely hurt, but in reality we only get hurt enough to play harder.  You are so strong that we just want to be strong like you, but we aren’t sure how long that will take.  So until then, we’ll soak up your attention and enjoy the roughhousing that is missing from our lives whenever we miss you.

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You are our role model.  Our teacher and team player.  You are everything we want to be not just when we grow up, but everything we wish we could be right now.  But for all the ways we love you for being so different from Mommy, we also love you for your unending cuddles and kisses and love that can be so similar.  We know we are the most important people in your lives because you not only tell us, but show us.  We know you kiss us goodbye in the morning while we sleep and we know you miss us when the house is too quiet.

Happy Father’s Day to the best daddy— you’re the strongest, smartest, bravest, most fun, and most kindhearted man we know and we will always be looking up to you!

Until we’re taller, faster, and stronger than you, anyway 🙂

We love you, Daddy!

Love, Trent + Tyson

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

Mommy