Glimpses of the Man You Are Becoming

My son,

You make me so proud. You make me want to pull out my hair sometimes, but the vast majority of the time, you make me so proud. Today the pride turned to tears because I truly saw glimpses of the man you are becoming. I saw your future. And as a mother, that means two overwhelming emotions intertwined into one…joy and fear.

It’s hard on a momma. Watching you grow means every day you are one step closer to spreading your wings. I know you’ll never “leave” me. No matter what happens, my heart will never let you go. But these glimpses of the man you are becoming mean that one day you’ll hold another woman with strength, protection, and the gentle embrace of love your dad has displayed for you with your momma. You’ll be hers, and she will come before me. That’s life, and that’s the way it should be. But it’s still hard on a momma.

These two photos tell a very important story of this morning. The woman behind the camera, your mother, is currently recovering from a hysterectomy only five days ago. She is tender and sore, but she’s still trying to be superwoman because that’s who she is. She’s a fighter and your daddy’s “firecracker.” But she’s also weak sometimes. Sometimes she needs help. But she’s not great at asking for it. And this is where the glimpses of the man you are becoming came in.

When I woke up this morning, I was a bit sore from sitting up as much as I did yesterday. You came in and asked me how I was feeling. I told you I was hurting a bit but not too bad. I know you read my face and realized that “not too bad” really means Oh for the love of all that is pure, this hurts today. You disappeared behind the door and I assumed you were going outside to jump on the trampoline or play basketball, typical activities for you and your brother given you are only 10 and 8 years old. But I was wrong. When I emerged from my bathroom and made my way to the kitchen, I stopped in my tracks. There you sat with your brother, happily chatting while dividing the mountain of laundry into folded piles for each family member. I stood there stunned. Seeing you help is not uncommon; your dad does most of the laundry and I the dishes and you are expected to pull your weight. But we always ask for your help. We always gently, sometimes not-so-gently, remind you of your chores.

“Did your dad tell you to start folding?” I inquired.

“No. We just wanted to get a jump on it.”

This was a glimpse of the man you are becoming, and tears fell from my eyes. I’ll admit that I didn’t entirely believe you so called your dad to ask if he had mentioned the idea of helping. He hadn’t. So very proud. So very encouraged to know that we must be doing something right. You see, parenting involves a constant stream of self-doubt and fear. But today. Today I felt on track. And after the laundry was caught up, you bounced to the kitchen with your brother and tackled the dishes…again without being asked. Yet another glimpse of the man you are becoming.

Keep growing, my son. Keep learning. Continue being you, making mistakes, getting dirty, and growing bigger. And I’ll be here. I’ll be here cheering for you, teaching you, helping you, and encouraging you every step of the way. I’ll be here reminding myself of these glimpses during those times when it’s clear you are still a child. I’ll be here eagerly awaiting the next glimpse of the man you are becoming. Why? Because I couldn’t be more proud to be your momma.

All my love,

Mom

~ Bailey Koch

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I Sucked at Parenting Today

Those days when you feel like an absolutely terrible mother – those days just flat out suck. We did not start today out well. I sent my boys off to school with attitudes flying everywhere…including and especially my own. Hudson is 10 and Asher is 7. Compound their ages, the fact that they are two brothers relatively close in age and almost the same size, and the fact that Hudson has ADHD and can be extremely impulsive and we get some pretty severe cases of sibling rivalry from time to time. Add in a tired and annoyed mom, and we get – well…today.
 
I’ve reproduced a shorter version of myself in Hudson. That boy and I can butt heads so badly at times, and it’s entirely because we are exactly the same person in different bodies. We both have to have the last word. We both have to be heard. We both have to understand the world by experiencing it ourselves. And we both have to feel respected without always understanding that we have to earn that respect. We both have a temper. We both have to walk away and think or we will put a foot in our mouths so deeply it’s impossible to breathe. We both over-react. We both struggle with admitting when we are wrong…until much later. We both easily become overstimulated and need space. We both crave truth and learning on our own terms. We both have a strong desire to prove ourselves. We both have a firecracker spirit. We both fight hard and love harder. We both don’t know when to quit. He’s me…only shorter and more male.
 
I maintain the first two years of being a parent are little more than survival mode. After that, we start navigating full-blown uncharted territory. We pray we are just going the right way and not making turns that will cause us to be forever lost in thorny woods. But we have a faulty compass when we rely on our own methods and when we refuse to turn around after making a wrong turn. Why? Because kids don’t come with a map or guidebook. Today, I took a wrong turn and I’m going to have to explain to my son that that’s okay. He can take wrong turns too, which he did. Neither of us handled today well. But as the parent, it’s my job to model how to respectfully handle mistakes.
So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll admit wrong. I’ll apologize. I’ll do better. But I also have to help my kid understand there are consequences for how he behaved today as well. He’ll argue and he’ll be mad…again. But this time, I won’t react. This time I’ll model behavior I want him to adopt. Don’t be like the me I was this morning, be like the me I’ll be tonight. Learn from mistakes and keep going.
I sucked at parenting today. But I’ll forgive myself and do better. My kids deserve that.

Advice For My Sons: Top Seven Things That Are Not “Okay”

I’d like to think that I gain knowledge as I get older, that the world makes more sense, and that past mistakes change from feeling like mistakes to feeling more like missed opportunities or even lessons learned. I’m past my years of having babies as our boys are currently 10 and 7 years old. Our family feels complete, and we are truly enjoying the years of helping our boys grow and learn.

I’ve been in school for a long time, and I’m a teacher, but I’ll be the first to admit that the greatest lessons I’ve learned have not come from within in a classroom or from a textbook; they have come from experience, tears, and triumphs. My greatest lessons have come from my own lessons learned, but also from watching others.

I’ll be honest that I love social media and writing in general. Mostly, I share for the fact of knowing how easy it will be for our boys and us to reminisce about our life later. The Internet knows all, sees all, and remembers all. It’s a digital yearbook that can be used for good or for evil. By sharing both the good and the bad of our lives, I like to think that I’m helping our boys remember reality and know, when they hit bad times in their lives, that life gets better when you have a positive attitude. You can get through anything when you draw strength from Him.

It’s amazing how much trash there is on the Internet; it makes me so sad to see things that others are celebrating when in reality, they are completely selfish acts. I’m a mom and a teacher, and there are some things in life that are just not okay. I’m not afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if I’m standing alone. I once read a t-shirt that said, “No more Mr. Nice Christian.” It really hit home with me.

So after seeing much more than my eyes want to see on the Internet, I’ve decided to compile a list. My husband and I won’t be around forever and we want our boys to know what we believe is right and what isn’t. It’s most important to remember that nothing is unforgivable. Nothing. Forgiveness is real, but there are still some things that are not “okay.”

  1. Playing the victim.You make your own decisions every day. Nobody forces you to do anything. You cannot control what others do, but you can control how you react to them. You do something stupid, you deal with the consequences.
  2. Living in a constant world of negativity.How you see the world says an awful lot about you. If you are living in a constant world of negativity, see number one above. You are the reason you are miserable because you are not allowing yourself to see the good that is all around you. Miserable relationship? Work on it…hard. Frustrated with your body? Change your habits. Hate your job? Work harder to find something you love.
  3. Lying.Not everyone appreciates the truth. But when it comes down to it, you’ll be thankful you were strong enough to speak it. When you speak the truth, you build trust and respect. Someday, those who don’t want to hear the truth now will appreciate that you were not afraid to speak up.
  4. Cheating.If you are in a relationship, especially if you are in a marriage, you work your butt off to make it work. If the love is gone, you try your damndest to get it back. I’ve seen it happen. God can move mountains when you let Him. If the love is truly gone after you have given your all, then you amicably part ways. You respectfully part ways. You do not ever move on to someone else while still in a relationship with another. And if you have children, you put them first. You display what adults should behave like and you show that you can be respectful without having to agree. You can be happy for each other that love will come around again.
  5. Stealing.There are so many times when “stealing” happens and our society doesn’t even notice. You already know it’s not okay to shoplift or take items or answers that aren’t yours. But I want you to know it’s also not okay to steal time or joy. I have mistakenly done this many times, and I’ve learned my lesson. When you live in negativity (see number two above), you steal time and joy not only from yourself, but from others as well.
  6. Refusing to forgive.By refusing to forgive someone, you are hurting nobody but yourself. We all make mistakes and hurt others; you will do it many times too. Refusing to forgive leads to both points one and two above.
  7. Refusing to listen to or see Him.You gave your hearts to Jesus. Whether or not you choose to follow Him every day, you are His. He will fight for you. He does it everyday in those good voices you hear and the good things you see. You see someone in need of help and hear a voice telling you to help…listen. When something good happens, thank Him. When something bad happens, pray to Him and look around. You’ll see good if you allow yourself. See Him. Listen to Him. Be ready for some to tell you you are crazy for believing the way you do. But trust me…He’s worth it. Stand strong in your faith and He will make you stronger than you could ever imagine.

Follow our journey advocating for mental health and raising two boys on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Learn our whole story at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Real Advice to My Children As You Head Back to School

Back to school.

A few months ago, the words seemed forever away. Excitement filled the air as kids were dreaming of what fun adventures their summers would hold. Well…the time has come. Summer is coming to an end as it tends to do. School shopping has commenced and the air is now filled with a mixture of excitement and terror (depending on who you talk to of course) with the impending first day of school just around the corner.

Myself…I’m an educator. I’ve always looked forward to back to school. I love the excitement in the halls and the promise of lessons learned. I have one son who absolutely loves school…just like his momma. Hudson will be in the fourth grade this year and is extremely social. He loves being around his friends all day and having similar experiences as them. He can’t wait. And then there’s Asher. Our youngest son will be entering the first grade this year, and he’s a ball of nerves. He’ll do fine, but the initial shock and adjustment is always a bit of a challenge.

But no matter what your child’s mood is concerning the unavoidable, school is starting. Words of wisdom don’t come to me when my kids are leaving with backpacks loaded to the brim. They don’t enter my mind as we are in the car on the way to school. And they certainly don’t come as I watch my boys jump out of the car and run to eagerly pull open the door of knowledge.

What does come to me? Tears. Always tears.

I’m not one to want my babies to stay babies forever. I am truly loving every minute of them growing and establishing their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. But every year I am overcome with emotion as soon as their little bodies leave my line of sight. Why? Every year, I marvel at how proud I am becoming of my humans.

So here is my real advice to my children as you head back to school. This is what is most important to this momma:

  1. Show your Christ-filled heart in everything you do.

    This is something I’m still learning as I get older. People will know you by what you say and do, not what you say you are going to do. Do not be afraid to show your heart, the heart your momma knows, to everyone you come in contact with. Open doors for your friends and say, “Good morning!” as you all flood in. Imagine how many of these kids are just as nervous as you are. Your smile may be their comfort and hope of a great school year. Give high-fives and hugs to your friends (old, new, and future). Visit your teachers. Your smile, positivity, and excitement will be contagious.

  2. Be you. No worse and no better than them. Just you.

    Equality. It was 1954 (yes, before I was here) when segregation was finally considered illegal in public schools across our country. But watch the news today and you will see it everywhere. It’s as though our world is digressing and it’s shameful. You, no matter what color you are, what your social status is, how much money you have, or who your family is, are just you. Just be you, the you who Jesus loves the same as the person you are standing next to. Stand up for you and for others. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

  3. Wrong is wrong. Take a stand.

    This one requires some more explanation and is a perfect continuation from point number two. Wrong is wrong. It does not matter if you are white, black, brown, purple, blue, orange, rich, poor, somewhere in-between…wrong is wrong. You, my children, know right from wrong. I will never…NEVER…punish you for standing up for what is right. But you know what the consequences will be if you choose to make bad decisions and treat others, any others, with disrespect.

  4. Stand up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves.

    To me, my sweethearts, this is most important. There are some people in this world who choose to take advantage of others, some who are just plain mean. Sometimes standing up for others is as simple as putting your arm around another, extending a hand, or offering to play and be a friend. Others will follow you. Be a leader, one who helps and doesn’t hurt.

  5. Encourage others.

    Someone has to win and it won’t always be you. In fact, most times it will be someone else. Learn to give a high-five to the winner and say “awesome job” to everyone else. Change the definition and help yourself and all others understand that a winner is also someone who can win and lose with grace. One day, the one who lost will win. Help everyone remember that.

  6. Be honest.

    Remember what I said about others knowing you for what you do and say, not for what you say you are going to do. It becomes all too easy to tell fibs in life. And then those fibs turn into lies, and the lies turn into deceit. Learn now to be honest and it will come easier and easier as you get older. Listen to that little voice inside of you telling you to tell the truth. Sometimes, honesty will get you in trouble; this is true and something I know all too well. But the reality is that the trouble you will be in will be far less than the trouble that a fib, lie, or deceit will cause. Just tell the truth.

  7. You make a mistake. You fix a mistake.

    Yes. Stumbles will happen. You will make bad decisions from time to time. There is a lot to be said for being able to say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” There is a lot to be said for “doing your time.” You won’t always be forgiven right away by whomever you hurt, but healing will happen in time. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. If you make a mistake, you fix a mistake. You learn, you move on, and you try not to let it happen again.

  8. Believe in yourself and work hard.

    You are so smart and so capable. I truly believe nothing…NOTHING…is out of your reach if you learn to truly believe in your abilities and work hard for whatever your goal is. Success is what you make it.

  9. Be a gentleman.

    Yes, this one is specifically geared toward my sons. I understand the push toward gender equality and I fully support it, but I also am extremely old-fashioned when it comes to the role of men in society. I do believe you, my boys, need to understand the importance of growing into a man who can lovingly and faithfully lead a wife and family one day. Open doors for girls and women, tell them they look nice (not hot and not sexy), offer your jacket if someone is cold, encourage them to achieve their goals, stop negative or inappropriate talk if you hear it or are being part of it…the list goes on and on. Help females see themselves as you see them…beautiful and capable, strong and worthy.

  10. Be the good.

    We say in our house all the time that God will make all things good, and it’s so true. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we don’t understand the bad, then we must work to show others that good exists. It’s not as hard as it sounds when we remember to give the credit where it should go. God is the good. God is all things good, and He made you. Be the good.

Have a wonderful school year, my sweethearts. I will shed some tears as you jump out of our van and run to open that door for others, but they are tears of joy. They are tears of excitement at the promise of lessons learned and more opportunities to spread good. I love you so very much and am so proud to be your momma.

All my love,

Mom
***

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

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My Dear Children: I Don’t Like You

Cue the confetti and the trumpets, “Mom of the Year” goes to…anybody BUT Bailey Koch.

Oh. My. Parenting. Seriously, guys. This week has been bad. We are talking “keep the boys from smashing each others’ heads into the tile,” “lock mom in the bedroom for your own safety,” “slam doors and break door trim” kind of bad.

So after today, I’ve seriously had it. I’m one who wears my heart on my sleeve, so hiding my feelings is not happening. My kids know mommy is officially losing it. Seriously thought about walking out of the house and going for a drive alone; and I would have had I not remembered the fact that our youngest has a serious case of “If you leave, you are never coming back” syndrome. I get it. He’s been through a lot with daddy’s accident, heart attack, and so on and so forth. So I didn’t leave. I locked myself in the bedroom. Or was that last night? OHHHH right. It was both.

But with that being said, this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week has left me with a big realization…

My dear children: I don’t like you.

You can officially give that mom of the year award away to anybody but me now. But it’s true. It’s summer, and I swear my children have turned into whiny, hearing impaired aliens. And it all comes down to one word, one word I can’t stand and absolutely despise…entitlement. I’m pretty sure both of my children have the word written across their foreheads at this very moment.

Get food out of the freezer and a few items fall out? Don’t worry. It works best if you stand there and scream and jump for mom to come pick it up since your “hands are full” of your nice cold treat.

Hungry at 5:00 and mom isn’t making supper fast enough? No worries. Just open up a can of spaghettios, warm them up in the microwave, and enjoy your time ruining your appetite for the nice meal your mother is about to begin preparing. Oh but be sure you leave all trash out, your bowl sitting in the living room for three days, and splatter that yummy sauce all over the microwave. Awesome.

Too tired to lift the toilet seat? Don’t worry. I genuinely love cleaning up pee all over the bathroom. Oh, and I adore sitting in it. Thank you!

Can’t find that precious stuffed animal? Oh it was me. Totally me. I hid it in an underground cave of wonders because I generally suck. That is all.

But entitlement is not only extremely annoying, it’s also dangerous. I refuse, REFUSE, to raise children who believe the world owes them anything. You work hard. You stand up for what you believe in. You get knocked down and you get back up. That’s what I want them to know. But right now, I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that a bad day does not mean a bad life. But this entitlement issue is bad.

So it’s true, my boys. I don’t like you right now. I love you. Oh my goodness do I love you. You have no idea how much, but that’s why you have to know why I don’t like you. We all have some work to do. Because when I don’t like you, I generally don’t like the person I become either. I turn into a screaming maniac. And if you ever videotape one of my outbursts, I will send your most embarrassing pictures to every girlfriend you will ever have for social media sharing.

Entitlement equals disrespect, and those are the issues we are having. While I love you, my children, I don’t like you right now. And if this behavior doesn’t stop, nobody else is going to like you either. Keeping a job? Forget it. You’ll believe you only have to show up when you feel like it and can leave whenever you want. Having a meaningful and loving relationship with a woman? No way. You’ll believe any woman is only there to pick up after you and allow you to walk all over her. Succeed in school? Nope. You’ll find a way to blame all of your mistakes on someone else.

So guess what, my children? You live under my roof, and this behavior stops now. I love you too much to not like you.

Love,

Mom

www.jeremyandbailey.com

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You’ve Been Punked: Top Five Commonly Told Lies From “Old Moms” to “New Moms”

As a mom of two young boys, ages 6 and 9, I can tell you I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years. I remember being a brand new mom and getting lots of unsolicited advice…that still happens. But please remember, there is a difference between advice and criticism. I respond well to advice; take it or leave it I figure. I’ll listen and be polite, but I don’t have to agree. But parenting criticism? No. Just no. I’m the mom and won’t pretend I’m right all the time concerning my parenting, but you sure as heck aren’t going to tell me you are right about how I should parent my kids. That’s just rude.

I’m currently in the stage of life when I know I am done pro-creating. My humans are made and growing. My husband and I made two males, and our family is perfectly perfect for us. I have lots of friends with kids and I have lots of friends without. In fact, most of my best friends since I was a wee-one are just now beginning to think about starting families. Today, I was on the phone with my bestie since fourth grade and we laughed about the stage of life she will be entering soon when she and her husband begin their family. I’ve been through a lot as a mom.

So my discussion with my best friend, who is thinking about the prospect of mommyhood, made me really start thinking about the fact that I was punked by a lot of moms who tried to give me “advice” when I began my family. I’ve compiled a list for you so you know when you’ve been lied to and can properly prepare for the reality of life as a parent.

Disclaimer…I understand trying to be super positive. Mommyhood is an absolutely awesome gig. However, in never sharing the reality that we all struggle at times, we make new mommies feel badly for not always enjoying every minute. So let’s be honest on both sides, shall we?

  1. “Trying to have a baby is fun! It will be a magical time for you and your husband.”

    Let’s face it. We are taking sex, something that should be quite enjoyable for a married couple, and turning it into a job. The ultimate goal is to create a human. Ready. Go! That’s a lot of pressure. With a job comes stress, and trying to have a baby can be stressful. Every month, if procreating hasn’t happened yet, you’ll get your monthly visitor and you will feel disappointed, sometimes even fearful. It’s not always a magical time. My advice? Try as hard as you can to relax and just “let it happen.” If it doesn’t happen right away, try not to stress and worry. Remember, there are a lot of ways to make a family. Trying can take a long time for many. But the more you stress, the worse your chances are. Trying to have a baby can be fun; with that I agree. But it can also be messy and stressful. Don’t fret; your family will happen. The more you plan, the more God laughs. Take time from baby making to just enjoy your spouse so you forget the ultimate goal. Focus on your marriage first.

  2. “Pregnancy is such an amazing time of life. You will love every minute.”

    Amazing? Yes. Worth it? Yes. You will love every minute? No…not even close. And that’s okay. If you are surrounded by women who say they just “want to stay pregnant forever,” find new friends. Those women are lying to themselves and to you. And if they aren’t, they are aliens whom are obviously not experiencing or noticing the reality of pregnancy. Hemorrhoids are absolutely awful and they certainly happen. Your boobs begin to look like they belong to some old woman but they are still attached to you; it’s very confusing. Leaking happens everywhere there is a hole; again, very odd and overwhelming. Heartburn…ooohh the heartburn. The tiny humans like to wedge themselves in places (mine took up residence with feet under my ribs) and stretch to oblivion so it is impossible to sleep or get comfortable.  And then there’s labor. Actually, labor was my favorite part because it meant I was almost done being pregnant. But I’m not going to lie; it hurts.

    The main part about pregnancy they don’t warn you about? Worry. Worry took over so much of my joy. It is possible to enjoy pregnancy, especially knowing the end result is so worth everything, but there are a lot of normal emotions to be prepared for. There is a lot that can go wrong, but there is a lot that doesn’t go wrong. Try not to worry. Try to enjoy it. You will be uncomfortable and you may or may not love being pregnant. Both are fine. So don’t think you are weird if you don’t enjoy every minute.

  3. “Baby snuggles are the best; you will just love having a newborn.”

    Okay, I can’t dispute that baby snuggles are the best and it’s awesome to have a newborn, but there are some hidden dangers in saying to every mom that you will just “love having a newborn.” When Hudson was three days old, I was so exhausted that I walked through a doorway holding him and nailed his head on the side of the door. Bam! I dropped to my knees and bawled for an hour trying desperately to understand how I, Bailey Koch, was effectively going to keep this precious tiny human alive. I. Was. Not. Worthy. I felt completely unfit. Then, I went downstairs and took a hot bath to try to relax and calm down. My boobs started shooting milk literally across the bathroom. Little did I know, I also had a massive infection. Mastitis. My fever was 103.5 at that moment. I had just given birth and it hurt to sit, stand, pee, poop, move, etc. My emotions were everywhere and there was no escaping the fact that I felt like absolute crap and was one of two people solely responsible for keeping this child alive. In those moments, I did not love having a newborn. I was terrified. And now I see that I was also having a completely normal reaction to being a new mom. I learned to accept help and tried hard to embrace those baby snuggles in between breakdowns, burps, and breastfeeding nightmares. This brings me to the next lie.
  4. “Breastfeeding is a completely natural process. You will catch right on.”

    I’m pretty passionate about this one. No, it’s not completely natural for many. Some moms are rock stars at breastfeeding. Some are not. I am not. In fact (and this is not an invitation to tell me how horrible of a human I am because I am not a fan of breastfeeding), I am quite creeped out by breastfeeding in general. I think it’s fabulous if women want to breastfeed. I don’t even have issues seeing it; it’s a boob with a human attached. The human has to eat, and this is a completely okay decision by the mother to feed her human in this format. So get over it. Don’t want to see it? Don’t look. For me, I hated it. It never felt natural. I never felt bonded to my child during breastfeeding. It never worked, and frankly, I felt extremely uncomfortable.

    I tried to breastfeed; I tried hard. I lasted with Hudson for 8 weeks and had mastitis three times. I bled. My nipples were horribly sore, and I was completely miserable. Every time I tried to feed my son, I cried. He cried. Neither of us were getting anywhere. I utilized the help of everyone, from friends and family to breastfeeding experts and doctors. I only kept trying because so many women made me feel like absolute crap for not loving every minute of breastfeeding. I was made to feel like a failure, and now I look back and want to tell those women, “Shame on you for making some feel this way.” I did not feel supported at all. Finally, a fabulous doctor said to me, “Bailey, it’s okay. Your body is not making enough for Hudson and it’s not your fault. You gave it your all. It’s okay.” I cried and cried and cried that I was never able to enjoy it or make it work like so many made me believe was supposed to happen. In fact, I even refused to give up when I had Asher. I thought maybe I just hadn’t tried hard enough. But the same things happened with him. I lasted two weeks and got mastitis again. Again, I utilized all the help available. It didn’t work. I hated breastfeeding and it did not work for my body. I was uncomfortable and miserable the entire time and my sons were not getting the nutrition they needed and deserved. They needed formula.
    I’m not sharing this for any other reason than to help you understand it’s not natural for everyone; that is why there are breastfeeding experts. If you want to try it, awesome. If not, don’t allow society to make you feel badly about that. If you don’t feel natural about it, or are even slightly creeped out by it as I was, don’t feel bad. Breastfeeding or not is a choice. Do what’s right for you.

  5. “You will miss this.”

    This is my favorite lie, and I still hear it all the time. I post something about a mountain of laundry and somebody inevitably writes, “You will miss this someday.” I say something about my son being grounded for being extremely disrespectful and somebody says, “One day, your house will be quiet.”

    Okay, I think it’s great that you miss the mountain of laundry, but I don’t. And I don’t plan on it. I get that my house will be quiet, but that doesn’t mean I will miss ear-piercing screaming and door slamming. You also told me I would miss having infants. Guess what? I don’t. I am in a fabulous time of life when I get to borrow my awesome friends’ tiny humans and then give them back. I am not responsible for them 24 hours a day. Our boys are 6 and 9 and I am learning to embrace every stage. I now have small to medium-sized humans and with that comes new triumphs and challenges; every stage does. Someday, my 9 year old will grow out of fits and door slams when he doesn’t get his way; I will not miss those moments. My children sleep through the night with no problems; I do not miss the stage when we were up with them at all hours. My children know how to tell me when something hurts; I do not miss those moments of tears streaming down their sweet little faces and mommy having no idea what to do to help. My children do not poop in the bathtub or rip off their pants randomly after having done their business only to smear it in or on places it’s not supposed to be; I do not miss clean-up from said disasters.

    Some phases I look back on with fondness and I smile. Some things I miss…yes. Some cause me to look back and laugh hysterically at the fact we all survived. I do not miss everything. I’m thoroughly trying to enjoy every stage (some days are harder than others), and I think that’s okay.

So it’s true. We all have been lied to. But there is one thing we can all likely agree on…no matter what, parenting is a pretty great gig. Just know you are not crazy for not loving every minute. It’s okay to look forward to the next stage.

Read more about our story at www.jeremyandbailey.com. Link to previous blog posts about parenting like “My Kids Hate Me” and “Advice to My Boys: 12 Non-Negotiables.”  Follow us on Facebook.

My Kids Hate Me

You learn you are expecting a child. Whether that child is coming from your own womb or the womb of another, you are about to be a parent. And then, the day comes when the baby enters the world. You marvel at how this tiny human was created. You dream, even plan, of how you will be the most amazing parent ever. You will guide, protect, and be patient and gentle. You will not yell or allow anger to take over your parental decisions. You will raise respectful children who are always kind to others.

Then the tiny human begins to grow. Then one extremely early morning, you wake to find that tiny human has grown into small human and has escaped from his crib only to stand next to you and scare the living crap out of you with the words, “I jump!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, small human is a climber. Did I mention small human also puts everything in his mouth? Yes, that includes his pee soaked diaper insides that exploded since he slept through the entire night. You learn that the people who work for the Poison Control Center are fabulously understanding and most importantly, that small human will be okay. You learn to be thankful for non-toxic everything.

Ahh, but don’t forget you have another small human, the one who was here first and wants nothing more than to see slightly smaller human destroyed. So one day, you turn your back for a moment and find that small human has convinced smaller human to climb from the upper deck onto the roof. After a minor heart attack, you safely maneuver smaller human back onto the deck.

These small humans have very little understanding of the word “danger” until they experience pain for themselves. Parents know nothing. Experience means little. 

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“Let’s keep him. I want to take him home.” – Hudson (age 2 1/2…proof he liked baby brother at one point)

So now I am mom to two medium-sized humans. Two boys to be exact. I laugh at my parenting plans before I actually had to do my best every day to attempt to keep these children from injuring themselves or others. I remember saying I would never spank. I remember saying I would never yell. I remember believing I would just know what to do. So here’s the truth now, as our boys will be ages 10 and 7 this year. I spank. I yell. And I have no idea what I’m doing or how to handle most, if not all, parenting situations.

So here’s the reality today. My kids generally hate me. They want to eat junk all day long; we don’t let them. They want to eat and run; we make them eat dinner with us as a family most days. They want to pee all over the toilet seat and expect mom to clean up after them; we make them clean it up themselves. They want to stay home on Sunday mornings in their underwear and play video games; we go to church as a family. They want to get angry, scream that I am a horrible mother, and then go back to their video games; they get grounded, spanked, and don’t get video games for a week. They want to forget their manners; they lose Kindle time. They want to destroy their bedrooms and expect mom and dad to clean them up; we shut the doors until they run out of clothes and are forced to clean. They want to be rough on toys and expect mom and dad to just buy new ones; we make them work to earn their own money by doing chores and use their money to purchase replacements. They want to try dangerous stunts; we let them within reason…they learn. They want to play video games all day long; we cancel cable in the summer and only allow television time in the evenings after we’ve been outside all day long. They want to be the first to run in everywhere; we make them hold doors for others. They want to do wrong and blame others; we teach them how to accept responsibility and fix mistakes. They want to have things and favors handed to them; we teach them to work hard and help others without expecting in return. They want to goof off in school; we teach them to respect a solid education and the teachers giving it to them.

They don’t yet understand what we are trying to do…that we are just trying to help them grow into respectful and responsible young men. We don’t know what we are doing as parents, but we do know we are trying our best. Yes, I yell. Yes, I allow anger to control my parenting from time to time. Yes, I will spank our children if the situation warrants it. No, I do not know if what we are doing is working. I believe my roll is to parent and pray; that’s it.

A woman once said to me, “Free will trumps good parenting every day.” This is so true. And honestly, it makes me feel so much better. I will do my best as their mother. I will raise them in a Christian environment with the knowledge that we respect and love others, we treat women with gentleness and admiration, and we share responsibilities in the home. We work for what we get in life and we do not expect handouts. We believe in education and using passions and God-given talents to help others. So at the end of the day, our kids still have to choose. They still have to make their own choices. We can’t be there always to be sure they are following through with what we are teaching. Free will trumps good parenting.

Parent and pray. That’s what I’ll keep doing every day. It’s worth it. I just pray we are doing right by them. Parent and pray.

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Like Jeremy and Bailey on Facebook to learn more about our story and daily life. We are Christian advocates for mental health and Jeremy has survived multiple suicide attempts and lives with severe depression. We run a support group, Anchoring Hope, in Cozad, Nebraska for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. Be sure to check out our website at www.jeremyandbailey.com to find more and even link to purchase our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith.”

The Little Town That Could

You know what I mean if you’re from a small town. You’re used to it – the laughs, the snickers from those “city-folk” who seem to think they have it all figured out. But there are just some things that they can’t understand – and won’t unless they become a part of a small community, just another name for a really big family.

I’m from small town Nebraska. And I couldn’t be more proud.

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So where exactly am I from?

I’m from sledding down the overpass with the entire community after a snowfall.

I’m from vegetable soup brought over by friends the minute they hear you’re sick.

I’m from community fundraisers for anyone struggling with anything when the entire town comes out together in support.

I’m from sharing the reality with the world that your husband has attempted suicide five times and being terrified of what people think – except for the 4,000 or so you know will have your back. (read more of our story at www.jeremyandbailey.com)

I’m from a Facebook post about your lost dog that soon goes “Dawson County viral” because nobody wants your little boy to be sad for a minute longer about the fact that he can’t find his puppy.

I’m from quick grocery store trips that turn into hours because you found 40 or so people you just had to catch up with.

I’m from gravel roads and wood-burning stoves.

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I’m from one stoplight (or none…I lost count).

I’m from one of the only video rental stores left in the state.

I’m from small-town businesses that consist of a greenhouse and nursery in the spring and summer and turn into a paint-your-own pottery and canvas art studio in the winter just to give families and friends something else to do.

I’m from sledding behind a four-wheeler.

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I’m from driving around for hours drinking hot chocolate while looking at Christmas lights of your “neighbors” miles around.

I’m from holiday home tours and Mario Kart competitions.

I’m from every weekend at the lake in the summer (and often after work during the week too).

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I’m from where people say “smells like money” when we take a whiff of the nearest feedlot.

I’m from Nebraska beef (enough said).

I’m from husbands and wives working together to run their family businesses.

I’m from gourd and pumpkin launching in cornfields.

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I’m from chili and cinnamon rolls.

I’m from Runza.

I’m from Jesus.

I’m from asking for prayers and feeling the results.

I’m from volunteer fire and rescue teams.

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I’m from life flights and town sirens that cause the community to all stop and pray (and I’m from the people who know what it feels like to need those prayers).

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Jeremy’s truck after the accident in 2012. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to the Cozad Fire and Rescue team and to all doctors, nurses, ambulance, and flight staff.

I’m from angel trees and selflessness.

I’m from support groups and church families.

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I’m from vacations to the big city that result in desperately just wanting to go home.

I’m from following tractors and cattle drives – and strongly preferring it to following bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I’m from high school sweethearts.

Teen Love

Jeremy and I had been dating for a little over a month in this picture…I was 16 (junior in high school) and he was 18 (senior). 🙂

I’m from knowing all the names and families of the custodians, mail persons, mechanics, etc. who take such good care of my family and friends.

I’m from in-home daycare providers who become family because they love your kids as much as you do.

I’m from 8-man football. (Go Eustis-Farnam Knights!)

I’m from Friday night lights and pee-wee flag football.

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I’m from small-town fairs and church lawn gatherings.

I’m from bonfires and booze cruises (Disclaimer – the rule is drivers don’t drink in case you’re not from here.)

I’m from rescuing every pet you have ever found in the lake, on the side of the road, or in the shed.

I’m from community art & music events that bring out the entire town in support.

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I’m from grandma and grandpa just down the road.

I’m from “It takes a village to raise a child.”

I’m from hay bales and highways.

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I’m from a phone call from the neighbor telling you they saw your child act like an asshole and they know you’ll want to “take care of it.”

I’m from climbing the roof to see the storm.

Setting Sun

The sun still beams through storms over Cozad, Nebraska in June of 2014.

I’m from friends in low places.

I’m from hunting and fishing.

I’m from cream cheese pickle rolls.

I’m from family game night.

I’m from small town Nebraska, and I’m me because of it. I would never raise my boys anywhere else.

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I’m from the little town that could…you know, that town nobody understands unless they live here, that town so many believed would “go under” so many times, that town that continues to be the best place in the world to live. Yeah…that town.

Follow our story:

www.jeremyandbailey.com

www.jeremyandbaileyblog.com

Like Jeremy & Bailey Koch on Facebook

 

The Myth that is Valentine’s Day

“Beep. Swoosh. Beep. Swoosh. Beep. Swoosh.”

I sat next to my husband as I stared out the window of the ICU on the third floor at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. I listened as the machines breathed for him and closely monitored his heart. He had made it through one surgery, but many more were to come. His abdomen lay open with only a clear plastic covering over it; I was told this was necessary to continue draining his body of the toxins leaking from his fractured pancreas and to allow surgeons “easy access” should my husband code.

Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

I asked the same question over and over. “Is he going to live through this?” Nobody would give any answer other than, “We are going to do everything we can.” They gently handed the papers to me to sign; I knew Jeremy would want to donate his organs if anything could be saved. I signed them wondering if Hudson, age 5, and Asher, age 2, would remember their daddy. That’s the hardest memory, the one that makes me look like this today, January 16, 2016, as I write this post for you. I believe in honesty, I believe in being open with our story for the world to hear, but it’s never easy to relive all the details.

2016-01-16 09.24.19It was February 16, 2012, when I got the call that Jeremy had been in a car accident. We had no idea how bad it was at that time. Jeremy was life-flighted from Cozad, Nebraska to Kearney, Nebraska and then on again to Omaha when doctors discovered the severity of his internal injuries.

Truth be told, I immediately began questioning if Jeremy had done it, if he had succeeded in a suicide attempt.

After being diagnosed with depression in 2009, Jeremy’s mental health continued to deteriorate. To this day, Jeremy has survived five suicide attempts and the near-death car accident in 2012 directly after he began a new depression medication that caused him to black out at the wheel. He went straight into a semi-truck at 60 miles per hour. Yes, I said near-death. Jeremy survived. I’ll never forget his surgeon coming to me after the last surgery; he looked me in the eyes and said, “Aren’t you going to ask me the question?”

I couldn’t breathe anymore. Through gasps and uncontrollable tears, I managed to say, “Is he going to live?” one last time. Dr. Forse smiled and winked. “Yes.”

Jeremy's truck after the accident in 2012.

Jeremy’s truck after the accident in 2012.

Our family on Christmas Eve, 2015.

Our family on Christmas Eve, 2015.

At this point, you are likely wondering what this post has to do with the myth that is Valentine’s Day. You may or may not have noticed the date of Jeremy’s accident, February 16, 2012 – two days after Valentine’s Day.

As I sat in the ICU listening to the machines keep my husband alive, I stared at the last picture of Jeremy and I on my phone.

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It was Valentine’s Day, and it was a reason to tell each other we still love each other, to have a glass of wine together, and to actually get a babysitter and go out for an hour-long meal…just us, just to talk, just to have an excuse to be husband and wife without other distractions. Why? Because it was Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do one time a year?

I can’t tell you how disgusted I was staring at this picture as I sat next to my husband while he fought for his life. I remembered taking it over and over because I wanted my nails to look nice. I remembered Jeremy politely going along with my orders as I struggled to get it just right. I wanted the perfect picture to put on social media. My focus wasn’t on enjoying time with my husband, it wasn’t on truly showing him how much he means to me, it was on the world and how they believed our relationship should be.

I listened to the beeps and swooshes as they mocked me. I had become that wife. I had allowed life’s distractions to come before my marriage. I had used Valentine’s Day, one day a year, to make a big deal about my marriage. And even then, I failed miserably. I still didn’t focus on Jeremy, I focused on the fact that it was Valentine’s Day and society told me I was supposed to act a certain way, do a certain thing, and say certain words.

And two days later, two days after I behaved as Valentine’s Day told me I should, I was about to be a widow. This man. This man who had changed everything about me, loved every part of me, even and especially the parts of me I hated, was fighting for his life. Not only that, he fought every single day before this. I just refused to see it. I refused to see the callus, landscaper hands that worked so hard to plant trees and provide for our family. I refused to see the gentle man he became when he sat next to our boys and said bedtime prayers or held a beautiful baby boy in his arms, one he created with me. I refused to put him first, before our children, before our other family members, before our friends. I refused to show him every single day how much he means to me, that my world would stop turning without him. I refused. I had a choice, and I didn’t do it.

But what hurt the most is the fact that I refused to see how hard he fought his depression. Every day, no matter what, he tried with everything he had to get up when his brain told him to stay in bed. He fought his dark thoughts as best he could and chose to believe there had to be some reason, something good about living with depression and suicidal thoughts. There had to be a reason God continued to keep him here on this earth. Every day he fought his brain to still be here and be the man he knew we needed him to be. I realized I’ve never met anyone stronger, anyone with more love or passion in his heart. And I made a big deal over him on one day of the year.

My thoughts overtook me as my sight shifted from staring out the window to the beeping machines and back to my husband.

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Why didn’t I do this every day? Why didn’t I get a babysitter once a week and take time to just be together? Why didn’t I hold him and tell him how proud of him I am, how much I love him for how hard he fights? Why didn’t I hold him and tell him we would get through this hell that is depression together? Why did I let him believe he had to fight this demon alone? He’s human just like me, he needs to know how much I care and that he’s not alone just as much as I do.

I believe Valentine’s Day is a myth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to have a day when you celebrate how much you love someone, but to only do it because society tells you to, that’s where the myth comes in. I learned a lesson I was not ready for, I did not want, but I desperately needed. I learned to love my husband. It took me nearly losing him many times to understand, and I pray you will learn from my mistakes. Love each other every day. Take time together. Put your marriage before your children; trust me, it’s the best gift you can give to your children. They will grow to understand love and to know how to love their spouse. Pray together. It is true that we never know when the last “See you later.” on this Earth will be.

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After Jeremy survived five suicide attempts and the accident, we learned we had work to do. We learned the world needed to hear our story. Many need to understand there is hope even in mental illness. Our mission is to provide hope for mental health anchored in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. We will spend our lives thanking God for allowing us the chance to continue being a family. Jeremy continues to fight his depression daily, but we have learned how to take what Satan meant for evil and use it for God’s good. Read our story in “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” by Jeremy and Bailey Koch. Follow us by liking Jeremy and Bailey Koch on Facebook. We share our life because we live a reality so similar to so many. We have found hope and healing, and we pray the same for you. We have learned to live, not just stay alive.

~ Jeremy and Bailey Koch
January 16, 2016

To 911 – “I Can’t Find My Son.”

A parent’s worst nightmare. And today, I believed it had happened to me.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Oh God! I can’t find my son. I can’t find him. He’s with another little boy. ASHER!!!”

“Okay, mam. It’s okay. Where are you?”

“I’m in Cozad. They were playing. Oh, please God. They were playing in the back yard and they’re gone. They’re gone! ASHER!!!”

“Okay. It’s okay. We’re going to help. Can you tell me your address?”

“Oh, God. I should have checked on them more. I’m not home. I’m driving around trying to…”

“It’s okay. I’m getting the police…”

“ASHER!!! WHERE ARE….OH GOD! I FOUND THEM!!! ASHER!!! I FOUND THEM!!! I’m sorry!

“Oh thank God. Okay. It’s okay mam. It’s okay. I’m so glad…”

“ASHER!!! Oh thank God!!! You get your ass in this car right now! You scared…”

I shifted my car and jumped out so fast that my van kept moving backward. Reverse. Not park. Try again. I jumped back in my moving vehicle and shifted up one more. Car stopped. I ran as fast as I could to my little boy and his friend, screaming every curse word that came to my mind, screaming at these beautiful boys covered in ditch water (where they had decided to escape for play time) that they scared us to death.

Truth be told. I did not handle today well.

Yes, we had a happy ending today. Yes, they are okay. But those 15 minutes of running around, driving around, and screaming at the top of our lungs for our six-year-old were undoubtedly the longest of my life.

I didn’t protect him. I should have checked on him more. I should have…

Every part of me truly believed someone had taken him, someone had harmed the innocent hairs on his head. Someone had my son.

The ditch. Am I looking for a body? What if he slipped and hit his head… He’s so little. We’ve talked about strangers. But would he do it? Would he get in a car with someone?

I tried to pray, but I believed so hard that someone had taken him, all I wanted to do was hurt whomever had him.

I’ll kill them. If someone hurts my baby. I’ll do it.

I can’t even believe my mind was capable of thinking this way. For 31 years of life, I have said I will act one way, I will do one thing, I will say these words, all if I were to experience what they experienced. I won’t judge someone. I could never hurt someone. I could never want another person to suffer no matter what they did.

And today, I learned the true reality of the terror of losing a child. I learned I had no control. I learned what my mind is capable, or incapable, of. 

The panic overtook everything in my body. I did not think clearly. I had never had so much energy in my life. It has now been over two hours since our terrifying 15 minutes, and I still can’t calm down. But what is baffling is I can’t believe what my brain thought, what my conversation with the 911 operator consisted of, and especially what I honestly believed to be true. I thought nothing good. Everything in my brain told me the worst case scenario. And now, I sit here trying to process it all.

The fear took over every logical thought in my mind. It dominated my thinking, my prayers, even my words. I was the crazy woman who the 911 operator couldn’t understand. I was the mother who believed I had lost my son.

So now I sit here and wonder, could I forgive someone who may hurt my child? Could I be the Christian I claim to be. Could I put my fears completely on God? Could I find good in losing my child? In that moment when I believed Asher was gone, I failed miserably.

I do not know if my mind is capable of forgiving someone who would hurt my child. I do not know how my world would keep turning if I lost my child. I do not know how I would react if I ever lose my child. I do not know…

None of us know. We do not know how we would feel, how we would react, what we would do, until we experience it ourselves. And even then, it’s not the same. I learned a terrifying lesson today. It was not a wanted lesson, but I understand why it happened. I needed to be humbled again. I needed to realize I am not strong enough without my God, without support.

Most importantly, I am not in control, even of my children’s destiny.

What many of us do have in common is our faith and the fact that many of us are parents. So now I know, all I can do is pray. I can pray for my ability to be a good mother, and to behave and act with grace using His truth. I can pray God will take my parenting anxieties. I can pray God will protect my boys and give me the strength to be everything they need.

So after my lesson today…

Heavenly Father,

I pray for the strength to look to You, to look to the good before ever choosing to first believe the evil. Today, I failed at this, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t give you my fears immediately. I pray I have learned my lesson. I pray I can truly forgive as I say I will. I pray I will not judge another or believe I would know how I would react in any situation. I especially pray for your protection over my children. I pray for the opportunity for my children to outlive me. I pray for those whom have lost children, please give them peace, strength, and grace. Please surround them with people who will love them and fill them with Your truth. Please give us all the strength and peace to think of You first.

I’m not strong enough to be a parent without You. And today, I let my parenting fears overtake me.

In Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

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