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Mano-a-Mano

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Do you ever date your children? In other words, do you take your kids out one on one aka mano-a-mono? This week, while my husband  and daughter attended a Dads-Daughter retreat, our son and I spent quality time together. We explored our neighboring community; San Jose, California. While, we were together, I realized there are three things we can do “date” our children.

  1. Be Purposeful – Our busy schedules challenge us to take time to play. We love to do things as a family such as camping, walking, hiking, etc.! So, for me, I must be purposeful in planning time alone time with each of my children. 20160422_182514-1
  2. Let them Pick – As a parent, it’s easy for me to plan my children’s events. This time, I asked Austin, “What would you like to do?” In my mind, I had a specific restaurant I like to frequent. However, I let him choose where we ate. Guess what? He picked the very one I love! Here we are pictured at Kianti’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz, California. The next day, I was thinking of taking Austin fishing at our local lake that opened up after three years of drought. However, he chose to explore my old stomping grounds in San Jose. Unlike me who grew up on a PC, he grew up on Apple products at school and owns an Iphone. He asked is we could tour the Apple campus. Here he is in front of the beautiful building located in Cupertino, California. Although, the offices were closed, to our surprise, their store out front was open. We window shopped and saw their watches, mac books, beats headphones, tv, and souvenirs. 20160423_114812_resized
  3. Be Present – Often, we can get sidetracked by phone calls, e-mails, texts, etc. Austin wanted to play put put golf. While we played, I noticed another mom working on her Ipad the entire time. The saying, “They are only little for a short time” is so true. So, I personally savored every minute with my teenager, because I know in in 5 short years he’ll be off to college! Enjoy your children, because they are a gift from God. – Psalm 127:320160423_131604_resizedDo you take your son or daughter out one on one? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to share…

Guest Blog by Claire McGarry

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Claire McGarry is a mom of three young children, and the founder of MOSAIC of Faith: a ministry through which she offers evening retreats and monthly faith sharing groups for moms, a children’s service project group, and a weekly mommy-and-me program. She posts weekly at “Shifting My Perspective,” where she writes about how Scripture always challenges her to grow and learn from the issues in her motherhood, and life in general, so she can see the gifts in their hands. You can visit her blog at www.shiftingmyperspective.com. Please welcome Claire!

Blessings, Rebecca

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Rehearsing The Right Response

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

My nine year old son Mason had his first speaking role ever in our church’s Christmas pageant this year. He played Joseph, and had quite a few lines. Having done theatre in college, I know that nervousness can cause your mind to go blank while performing. I explained to Mason that he needed to know his lines forwards and backwards, so no matter how nervous he got, he’d remember what to say and when.

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It occurred to me that I parent my kids the same way I coached Mason for the pageant: making them rehearse the right response to each situation over and over again. Every time any one of them loses their cool, breaks a rule, or is unkind, I have them take some time away to calm down. Then we have a little chat.

First, I ask them to tell me (and not vice versa) what they did wrong. Kids are smart. They know when they’ve misbehaved. My kids don’t need me to point out the error of their ways. Instead, having them put their mistakes into words forces them to take ownership of their actions.

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Second, I have them tell me what an appropriate response would have been. Occasionally I do have to help them brainstorm the different options. But most times they know what the right responses are, sometimes they just choose not to make them. Having them verbalize the different options they could have taken not only reminds them that there are numerous ways to solve any given problem, it also gives them an opportunity to redeem themselves. Not only do they get to rewrite the script of what just happened, they get to see how the new ending plays out so much better than the first.

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Third, not only do they have to apologize to me, but they have to apologize to whomever they hurt in the process. It is important they own their mistakes. However, apologizing is how they make things right.

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Lastly, I have them rehearse the right response. I literally have my kids role-play the scenario leading up to the problem, but then act out the right response instead. They say “practice makes perfect.” It is this process that imprints the right choice on their brains so that, hopefully the next time, when their emotions are running high, they remember what they rehearsed and follow through with a good choice. If I skip this part of the process, my kids are inclined to remember the punishment, not the problem solving and feeling of empowerment that I want them to remember.

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Fortunately Mason was well rehearsed and delivered every one of his lines perfectly. And with each passing year that my kids rehearse the right response, there is less and less fighting in my household, and more overall good behavior. They are so proud of their own practice and progress, and without a doubt, so am I!

How do you teach your child(ren) how to respond to life’s mishaps?

Tough Times

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This past week has been tough! My life seemed like a roller coaster with its ups and downs; twists and turns. First, we were blessed with a new place to live. The kids were excited to unpack their boxes, and I was thrilled to move in before winter hit.

Yesterday, we explored our new surroundings, and hiked to Eagles Landing observation deck. I marveled at the amazing vista of Scotts Valley, California!

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Second, my friend Dianna Cornell passed away of kidney complications. I miss her smile, hugs and encouraging words. She was an awesome friend, and taught me how to blog using WordPress. I featured her Guest Blog on February 23, 2015.

Dianna loved the Lord. The good new is she’s now present with Him and pain-free. Although, it is a sad time for her family and friends, it’s also a hopeful time in that one day we will see her again in Heaven.

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During this topsy turvy time, I’ve learned four things that have helped me cope.

  1. Focus on God – I find that when I start my days reading my Bible and praying to God, it always goes smoother. His peace helps me through my hectic day.
  2. Prioritize Activities – I know I can’t possibly do everything all the time. So, I write what needs to be done down and determine what needs to be done first. Once I complete it I cross it off my “To Do” list and move on to the next task.
  3. Persevere – When I feel overwhelmed, I remember to press through and keep going. Otherwise, if I stop or slow down, work piles up and I feel worse. So, I do what I can without compromising my sanity or healthy.
  4. Ask for Help – I’m extremely independent. So, this is next item is definitely a learned behavior for me. If I need assistance, I now ask my husband, son, daughter, other family or friends for help. They are always eager to help in time of need.

My hope is these simple steps can help you during a stressful season of life. I’d love to hear how you have successfully navigated through tough times. Fee free to share your insight with us.

Sharing is Caring

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Thank you for sharing. It shows me you are caring are the lyrics to a song we sing in pre-school. Yet, it’s my observation kids’ least favorite activity is sharing toys. It’s my experience that children will inevitably want the same toy to play with at the same exact time. The rule at our school is to ask your friend, “Can I be next?” Then the other child will respond, “Yes,” play for awhile and hand over the item. However, there are times when a child will respond, “No!”

Why is it so hard to share? Like when you are savouring a delicious meal and your spouse asks, “Can I have a bite?” Of course you give them some, but deep down you may be thinking, “No!”

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Sharing appears to be a learned behavior varying from culture to culture. Some people share everything with others such as their money, time, house, car, clothes, food, etc.

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I believe the ultimate act of sharing is when God gave His one and only begotten son, Jesus, to be a randsome for the world’s sin. Often, I look at my thirteen-year-old son,  and am reminded of His loving sacrifice.

How do you share or teach your children to share? Or has anyone shared something special with you? Please tell us below.

Guest Blog by Eileen Turay

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I’d like to introduce Eileen Turay. She has a Masters of Science in Counseling with a school specialization. She’s worked with children with Autism for a few years using ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), and taught at both preschool and elementary levels. She’s married, has a three-year-old daughter, two dogs, and they live in South Florida.

She shares some great free and cheap ideas to do with children. Please welcome Eileen Turay!

Blessings, Rebecca

Our top 8 fave FREE and CHEAP things to do with Kids

Since I currently work full time, I am always looking for new fun things for Olivia and I to do on the weekends. Though going to get Bagels and Starbucks are among our top two faves, they get old quickly; so, I thought I would make a list of some of our favorite inexpensive and free things that Olivia and I like to do together.

1. Make breakfast together. Pancakes are not only pretty simple to make, they are easy for a three-year-old to help make. Liv loves nothing more than to stir up the batter. I know, it can get messy, but it is worth it. When she feels helpful, it makes us both happy. Then we sit on the couch in our jammies and yell at the dogs together for trying to eat our food.

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Eating breakfast together. parenting fun

 2. Go to a new park. HYPE IT UP! When I ask if Olivia wants to go to the park, I never know what she is going to say; but if I ask her if she wants to try a BRAND NEW AMAZING SUPER AWESOME park, she is IN! Google parks in a 30 mile radius from your house. If you see graffiti, gang signs, and broken glass you may want to try another one… but that’s the fun in the adventure right?

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Fun at the Park

3. Festivals. Greek, music, dog, school, asparagus (yep.. that’s a real one in Stockton, CA lol) Look them up and go!! You may have to argue with your child a bit about why $5 a ticket for the bounce house is not happening… but you can probably distract her with a sweet swag bag compliments of the local Bank Branch booth.

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Fun and Free Festivals

 4. FORTS. I cannot stress how amazing forts are. From ages 2-34 (my husband as proof), forts can be lots of fun. You have to be willing to just say goodbye to any chance of having decent couch cushions ever again; but honestly, if you have a three-year-old, you’ve already had the sofa funeral.

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Fort Fun. Making a Mess

5. Anything wet. If you have the space for it, a tiny pool or water table. If you live in an apartment like us, find the nearest spray ground/beach/lake/pool. This one is a given. Olivia almost always says she doesn’t want to go; then she always has a blast. Here is the trick: you need to get wet too. I don’t know why I am sharing this or why it is such a stand out memory to me: but as a child, my mom never wanted to swim with us. We swam at my grandparents’ pool all the time and she NEVER got into a bathing suit to swim with us. Dad? always down… but mom was never a fan of water/swimming. I STILL remember like yesterday when one of the other adults pushed her into the pool one time with all of us with all her clothes on. I know she was mad at first but she ended up laughing. I thought it was the MOST FUN swim day we ever had as kids. It is such a simple thing, but your kid does NOT care what you look like in a bathing suit. She just wants you to be part of the fun. So be a part of it. She will remember. I still do.

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Free and Fun Things to do, Water Fountain 

6. Picnics. Eating a PBJ in your house=lame. Eating a PBJ on a blanket or picnic table anywhere else=awesome. For some reason, doing things like eating sandwiches at novel locations always seems to be a good time.

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Fun, Free Picnic.

 

7. Crafting. We live in FL so we are not short of Coconuts to paint. If you live somewhere where pinecones or large rocks inhabit, paint those. If big leaves are all you have to work with, use those. Its innate in children to pick up/collect/borderline hoard things they find in nature every day. If I had a rock for every time Olivia collected a stick…. oh yah, I do… and there are a lot. If you don’t want to buy paint, use what you have. Glue and ripped paper is a great time 🙂

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8. READ. People are amazed at Olivia’s vocabulary everywhere we go. I can honestly say that her intelligence is highly attributed to the amount of books we read together. We have read to her at night time since she was a tiny baby. She barely sat still for the longest time. At some point, however, she began to go from “fidgety toddler who barely made it through one story” to “mommy you skipped a page” (I swear I didn’t mean to… ok I did… but now she catches me so I had to stop). If you don’t always remember to read to your child, it’s ok! If you don’t have the time to do it at night, make it. I promise you, the bonding that comes from routine reading time is immeasurable. It is one of our favorite things to do.

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Reading to your Kids

 Spend time not money.

Visit our website at www.livandleen.com for more parenting tips and tricks, and learn from my mistakes before you make your own.

A special thanks to Rebecca for letting us into your community. It’s always better when we Liv and Leen totegher J

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Here are some other ideas for fun stuff to do with your kids:  Fun Stuff

PS. Benjamin Bunnie’s Big Adventure is now available in paperback!

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Guest Blog by Claire Brighten

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I met Claire a few years ago when she visited Kidz Korner, our community children’s clothing exchange. She is a gentle and sweet woman, wife, mom and awesome photographer! I asked her to share her thoughts on parenting. She writes about her ups and downs with infertility/motherhood.

Sprinkled throughout her post, you will see my family pictures she recently photographed at Henry Cowell Redwood State Park in Felton, California. We won her Rainbow Child Photography contest, because we too experienced the lost of a child between our son and daughter. I learned that our daughter Alicia is our Rainbow Child. What a blessing this gift was as we hadn’t taken a family portrait for ten years! Please welcome Claire Brighten!

Blessings, Rebecca

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My experience with motherhood was years in the making – first in biding my time while my husband finished college and searched for his first job, then we learned my body wasn’t ready. Over the course of three years, I had two miscarriages, with months of infertility between pregnancies. I spent months seeing specialists at a fertility clinic, then months going to acupuncture. After my second loss, I gave up and actively tried not to get pregnant. Then we bought a house and moved to a new city and unintentionally became pregnant, and somehow, by some miracle and some focused work on my part on my diet and stress management, I was able to carry my son to term.

So my path to motherhood was a journey indeed.

The loss of a child really helps to put any living children’s minor infractions into perspective. I remind myself often how important my son is, not as a way of letting him off the hook – we deal with his missteps and poor choices as best we are able – but as a way of remembering that these moments are fleeting. Life is fleeting. My son is already somehow 3 years old. I will blink and he will be 5, then 10, then 14, then a full-grown adult. These challenges are ultimately small and the larger picture is that I am grateful for his existence.

But that doesn’t mean I am not frustrated. Often. Motherhood is a task of self-study. Our reactions and interactions are shaping our relationships with our children and their relationships with the world. And we have to look at ourselves constantly – to be more attentive, to be calmer, to be more patient, to be sillier, to be firmer or more lax, to be, in general, the bigger person. And this is challenging – a challenge to ourselves to grow as our children are teaching us about ourselves. And a challenge to fight that internal battle to hold strong even when they are pushing every single button possible – and even some we didn’t know existed.

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My son is 3. The “terrible twos” did not exist for us, but the “threenager” stage is in full effect. He talks back. He yells “Stooooopppp!” when we are at the grocery store and I am reminding him to keep his hands in the cart and instead ask questions about what he sees. He wants to do everything himself and thinks he knows best. He does not want to be told what to do. This is by far the most I have been challenged as his mother.

I am on my journey of motherhood and I hear that little voice inside me, remembering how precious this being is to our lives, for the rest of our lives. Today is a challenge. Tomorrow will be a challenge. There will always be a challenge. But I have overcome many just to share in shaping this tiny person’s life – and he mine. He is 3. He gives kisses freely. He wants to hold my hand and run together. He loves to sit with me while I read him books. He finds wonder and excitement in so much of the world around him. At the end of the day, the joys outweigh the challenges. And I will forever be grateful and honored to hold the title of “Mom.”

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Unconditional Love

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I watched the nurse serve my then twenty-two-month-old son a purple solution. His body slowly slumped in her arms, and she whisked him to the Operating Room. Fear crept in my head as I waited patiently. I understood hernia surgeries to be common place, however, hospital statistics did nothing to calm my nerves. This is my precious boy; my firstborn.

My husband put his arm around me, “Austin will be fine. He’s in good hands.”

I squeezed him, “I know. I just love our boy so much, and it pains me to see our toddler undergo surgery. I wish I could take his place.”

While I paced, I reflected on my understanding of love. After all, I married my best friend just three short years earlier. I enjoy watching our wedding video. It never fails, a lump forms in my throat each time I see Randy wipe a single tear off my cheek during our nuptials.  Yet, this time, the love I felt differed. I ached.

It began two months prior, Randy called me into Austin’s bedroom. “Come here Hon, there’s a bump popping out his stomach when he pushes. Look!”

I gasped, “What’s that?”

“I’m not sure. Pack his bag. We’re taking him to the ER!”

I kept calm as to not scare our little guy, dressed him and rushed to the hospital. Upon our arrival, the staff immediately wheeled him into an examination room.  The doctor asked us some routine questions, and pressed on his bulge. He explained, “Austin has a hernia. It’s typical for children his age. I’ll have my nurse schedule a simple surgical procedure repair the hole. The wait is approximately three months out. Don’t worry. We perform over 400 surgeries per year.” What, his intestines are popping out and of his muscle lining and we have to wait three months!  He continued, “If the hernia doesn’t retract for some reason, then return for emergency surgery.”

I looked at Randy, “Why doesn’t the parenting handbook cover these issues for first time parents?”

He chuckled and pulled me close, “We’ll learn together.”

Ninety days passed, and his surgery day arrived.

Approximately an hour later, Austin’s surgeon entered the waiting room, “The operation was a success, and Austin is fine.”

Inexplicable joy filled me. I exhaled, “Thank you doctor. When can I see him?”

His nurse escorted me to my son’s recovery room. I glanced at my baby rattling the crib rails with all his might, and jumping up and down. His red, sweaty face screamed, “Mommy! I want my Mommy!”  I felt as if someone had opened my chest cavity, and ripped my heart out. I believe Austin waking up in an unfamiliar environment with strange people, tubes taped to him, and the absence of his parents frightened him.

I gathered him in my arms, and held him tight. I sunk into a rocking chair, kissed him, and whispered, “It’s okay Austin. Mommy is here.” He buried his little head between my neck and shoulder, and fell asleep. At that moment, I knew unconditional love. It’s a sacrificial compassion for someone other than me, and it’s even sweeter when reciprocated. As I recount this incident, I’m reminded that Austin’s surgery hurt me more than it did him. I don’t understand why so many boys and girls must undergo hernias, but I’ve certainly developed more awareness and empathy for sick children.

Coincidentally, that same summer my father’s was diagnosed with a similar hernia; only it took my dad six months to heal due to his surgery being more evasive.

On our ride home, I watched Austin slumber, and I realized the bond between a mother and her child is very strong. It’s truly unconditional love! I believe it’s one of life’s beautiful mysteries.

Have you ever experienced Aha moment of unconditional love? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Blessings, Rebecca

PS I joined Top 25 Mommy Blogs! If you have enjoyed our blogs, please vote for me by clicking their emblem on my home page. Thank you!

cover-imageIntroducing my new book, Benjamin Bunnie’s Big Adventure! Now available at Amazon.com.

Guest Blog by Fr. Blaine Hammond

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Fr. Blaine Hammond is a Priest in the Episcopal Church, currently working at St. Andrew’s in Ben Lomond, California.  He is married to Dr. Elizabeth Forbes, and they have three children; all in their 40s now.

Before his ordination, he worked several years for the Boeing Company in Everett and Renton, Washington, for the Post Office, drove buses for Seattle and King County, rebound and repaired books at a seminary library in Denver, ran the computer division at a small event management company near Denver, and supervised the Word Processing Department at the JFK Child Development Center, part of the University of Colorado Medical Center, in Denver.

He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Washington, a Master of Divinity Degree from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, and a Certificate in Anglican Studies from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Since being ordained, he has worked for congregations in Lyons, Colorado, Castle Rock, Colorado; Seaview, Washington, and his current position. Also, he has volunteered with congregations in Clayton, California, Alameda, California, Battleground, Washington, and Seattle, Washington.

Fr. Blaine Hammond leads the congregation where I teach pre-school. It’s a treat to watch him tell our little ones about God in chapel each month. Also, he contributes a column in The Piper church newsletter. So, I asked him to share his insight with us this week, and am thrilled to have a male perspective! Please welcome Fr. Blaine Hammond!

Blessings, Rebecca

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A professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard, Robert Coles, wrote a book titled The Spiritual Life of Children (1990, Houghton Mifflin, Boston).  What interested me about it was the way that he set aside the preconceptions of his profession and listened to the things the children had to say; and having done that, how he worked to understand the ways that children tried to fit their understandings about God and religion into the world they were in the process of encountering and trying to learn about, and vice versa.

My observations of children, having raised three to adulthood along with my wife, have convinced me that children are not simply small, unlearned and incomplete adults.  They are, in many ways, something quite different from adult humans, in terms of the ways their brains and bodies work, and the ways their spiritual lives work.  It is that, I think, that Jesus was talking about when he said that we not only need to be willing to receive children as worthy of our adult attention, we need to learn from them and even try to become more like them if we are to be able to understand and enter the kingdom  of God.

Those can be hard things to think about when a tired, manipulative, demanding, whiny child is interrupting us for the fifth time during a telephone conversation or making our shopping experience a monstrosity.  But when we are not trying to correct, mold or escape from our children, watching them and listening to them can really teach us lessons about looking at, experiencing and thinking about the world in ways we have forgotten.  It can also teach us lessons about what faith, love, understanding and hope mean.

One of the things Dr. Coles reports was a conversation that ensued when a group of children heard an ambulance siren go by outside.  “I noted, yet once more, how often children (like adults) think of God as a judge, a critic, or a benefactor: one who rewards and punishes.  The children also managed to give God a psychology, one not unlike their own.”  They had been talking about a sickbed picture, and the discussion turned to whether God was, or could be, like the doctor in the picture.  Many of us adults have formed enough of picture of God to satisfy ourselves.  I wonder how often we can sit with a child, not to teach the child what God is like, but to listen as they speculate about what God could be like?  Or even to speculate with other adults, or by ourselves, after so many years of having our opinions settled?

We often think we need to protect children against thinking about the difficult things of life.  But they think about them anyway.  Children are right there at ground level, where things  happen that we don’t even notice.  Hidden from our eyes in the grass are dead birds and small animals, which the children discover and wonder about as they play, along with the discarded items of adult life.  What do they think about these things?  How does it affect what they think about God and the world, life and death?  We’ll never find out if we don’t open the subject up with them.

Miscarriage: The Loss of our Baby

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The Ultrasound Technicians slowly moved her wand through the warm gel along my lower abdomen. I watched her face desperately searching for a ray of hope. She turned off the equipment, “I’m sorry Mrs. Krusee, but your baby’s heart is no longer beating.” Water filled my eyes, What! This can’t be happening…I’m only five weeks along!

On my ride home, my mind rehearsed the devastating report. I reflected on the fact we married later in life at age 35, had our son Austin at 36, and tried for over a year to conceive this baby at age 39. My heart sunk!

I shared the crushing news with my husband Randy. We cried, knelt at our bedside and prayed for God to heal our broken hearts, and to bless us with another child.

My doctor suggested I rest my body for 30 days before trying again. I did, and to our surprise the following month, we discovered we were pregnant!

Nine months later, we welcomed our precious daughter Alicia.

Recently, a friend taught me the baby following a miscarriage is called a “Rainbow Child.” I like that analogy of something beautiful following a storm, because she definitely fills our lives with color. Also, I have hope and look forward to meeting our baby in Heaven some day.

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For those of you who have also suffered the loss of a child or struggle with fertility, I want to extend my sympathy to you. I empathize with your inexplicable pain, and pray you find comfort in the loving arms of God during your difficult time.

Blessings, Rebecca

PS

Now available in paperback!

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