December 31, 2011

Christmas Continues: Christmas Eve

While most people have packed up their Christmas decorations and taken down the tree, ready to ring in the new year with diets and other new year's resolutions, Christmas will continue here at The Hardy Life for a few more days.  I haven't posted in awhile, but don't worry, I've been busy snapping photos of baby's first Christmas and I am ready to share.

It was a blessed Christmas for us, from start to finish.  Not only were we incredibly grateful to be celebrating the miracle of Clara's life, but we got to spend lots of wonderful time with family and had some time to stop and reflect on the blessing of Jesus' birth.

So, first things first.... Christmas Eve!!

This was the first year in I don't know how long (ever?) that I didn't go to a Christmas Eve service.  Our family has traditionally done the candlelight service at our church and Robert and I have made it a tradition to go to a Moravian Lovefeast together (if you're not from Winston-Salem and don't know about the Moravian Lovefeast, you should look it up.  It's one of the most simple, powerful, beautiful services ever - rich with tradition and love and fellowship.  It makes my Christmas every year.).  But between feeding and napping and pumping schedules, we just couldn't quite figure out how to make it work this year.  So, there was no church service, but that doesn't mean we didn't have fellowship.

First of all, Robert's parents came up to spend Clara's first Christmas with us.  All day Christmas Eve Clara got to play with Mama K and Daddy Bob and she was in heaven (I think they might have been, too.)  We're so grateful to them for being willing to come up and spend some time with us here.

Our other Christmas Eve tradition for as long as I can remember is to have dinner with our friends the Jacksons.  Since we've all become "grown-ups" and are coordinating more complex Christmas schedules, the meal the past few years has been moved to another night in December when we could all be home.  But this year it worked out for us to gather again on Christmas Eve and Aunt Trina hosted us for a wonderful meal.  It was great to have Clara experience her first Davis-Jackson Christmas, and made even sweeter by the fact that her Hardy grandparents got to join in, too.

We didn't get a good group shot, but here are a few photos of our evening together.

Clara opens a gift from Aunt Trina, with the help of Big Daddy and Daddy Bob

She's been making this face a lot lately.  Not sure what that's about, but it's adorable.

Yay!!  It's a book!

Oh, what a spread.  Trina does it right.
Clara and Sweet Mama
 It's always our tradition to have a Happy Birthday Baby Jesus cake for dessert...

This one was from Dewey's.  Yum, yum.

And Clara got to blow out the candles this year! (With a little help, of course...)

Clara opened her first present of Christmas.  (Spoiler: it was her Christmas jammies.  Evidence of them coming in the next post... Christmas Morning)

December 24, 2011

A Special Christmas Prayer Request

This is a very special Christmas for us, as I'm sure anyone reading this knows. We have experienced a miracle this year, and have felt God's grace and mercy in a more real way than we could have ever imagined. We rejoice this year with a very different perspective than in years past, and we do it with more gratitude and fervor than ever before.

As I write this, Chrissy and my parents are sleeping soundly upstairs in their beds, and I have just finished giving Clara her nighttime bottle and putting her back down to sleep. A log is still glowing in the fireplace, presents and stockings fill our living room, and Santa's cookies and milk are awaiting consumption. This is a house full of material, physical, and spiritual blessings far beyond our deserving.

And yet my heart is heavy. Some of you may be aware of another CDH baby born recently; little Jude was born a couple of weeks ago to Brian and Rose, with whom we coincidentally have connections through family and camp friends. Jude, like Clara, went on ECMO his second day of life, and is currently experiencing many of the same problems that threatened Clara's survival: pulmonary hypertension, fluid retention, and heart and kidney dysfunction. Jude also has to deal with a serious infection, and on top of all this, he has yet to face surgery to repair his hernia. Jude's parents are updating their blog with specific prayer requests, and Rose has asked everyone to pray as often as possible for Jude in the next couple of days for miraculous healing for Jude. (You can view their blog at

We know firsthand that miracles happen. On this day when we celebrate the miraculous entrance of a Child into the world, please take a moment to join us in praying for Jude to experience the miraculous healing that we've already seen take place in Clara. Pray also for Brian and Rose to experience the peace that passes all understanding, and to find joy and celebration while bearing a burden that no one should ever have to bear.

This is a season of miracles. Pray with us that God will work one in Jude.

Grace, Peace, Joy, and Love to all,


December 23, 2011

A Very Special Visitor

One of my favorite memories of Christmas as a child was when Santa would come visit our house.  No, not the middle of the night Christmas Eve undercover visit that most children get.  Santa would come to our house one night in December and we could hug him, sit on his lap, and tell him our Christmas dreams all in the comfort of our own home!  He would bring a bucket of fruit and candy canes and we always felt like the luckiest children in the world to be visited in person by the big guy in red. 

As we grew older, we discovered that it was a church member and dear friend, Roger Jones, who did the dressing up and visiting.  And we weren’t the only ones who got the special treatment.  He visited nearly 700 homes during December with his benevolent act of spreading Christmas cheer (with candy canes and fruit along the way).  He always needed a driver to drive his route, which my dad usually volunteered for at least one night, and he needed elves to help gather the buckets and pass out things.  I remember doing that as a young teenager. 

Roger’s health isn’t great anymore, and he’s had to retire from his Santa rounds.  But those special memories will always live in my heart. 

One of the things I was just a little sad about for Clara’s first Christmas is that she wouldn’t be able to sit in Santa’s lap.  Any “public” Santa would just pose too much of a germ risk for her.  Not that she knows the difference, but those first Christmas photos just wouldn’t quite be the same with her not allowed to touch Santa’s fluffy white beard. 

Tonight, our doorbell rang and Clara got her own visit from Santa, right in her house.  She got a chance to sit in his lap, peer into his spectacles and tug hard on his fluffy white beard.  It was like a flashback from my childhood to see her get to experience a personal home visit from Santa.  And fortunately, all four of Clara’s grandparents were here for the fun visit!  Thank you, Santa for making this little girl and big girl’s dreams come true.  Merry Christmas.

Nine Months Old

Happy Birthday, Sweet Clara!  Hard to believe she’s nine months old already.  From here on out, it's more time on the outside than on the inside!  If only the nine months of pregnancy had passed as quickly as her first nine months here!  This has been a huge month for Clara in terms of gross motor development.  Here’s what she’s up to:

-          Crawling.  Sometimes “commando-style” and sometimes on all fours, but this girl can get around.  Her favorite things to crawl after are technology (mom’s camera, dad’s computer, any type of cord), Rufus, and shoes.  The forbiddens, of course.
-          Clara learned this month how to get from her belly to sitting position.  This means that she can not only get all the way across the room, but once she gets there she can sit up which inevitably leads to….
-          Pulling up!  On everythingFurniture, people, her toy basket, Rufus’ bed, Christmas presents, her crib…..  We had to lower her mattress and she’s started cruising just a little bit along the coffee table or in her crib.  This girl is already wanting to walk.  Chill out, Clara!  There’s plenty of time!
-          Wiggling.  Clara is so so active these days.  She’s always crawling or twisting or turning or moving or tugging.  Bathtime and changing/dressing time have gotten to be a real challenge!  


All those gross motor changes brought with them a bit of a sleep regression.  We sure did enjoy those several weeks when she was sleeping through the night consistently.  Hopefully we’ll be headed back there soon because this mama is TIRED.  She’s started flipping over and sleeping on her belly now (I think it’s the cutest thing in the world when she’s got her toosh up in the air).  When she wakes up in the night, it’s like she remembers, “Oh!  I can crawl and pull up and cruise around on stuff!!  Maybe I’ll do that for awhile!”  

 I thought for awhile that the sleepless nights might have been teething.  She is still chewing on everything in sight and drooling like it’s her job.  But after a few nights of motrin (to little avail) we decided that the sleep issues were not teeth related.  And sure enough, there are still no teeth.  I’m still not in a hurry (except it would be nice to have something to blame the occasional cranky mood on….) the teeth will come eventually, and we’ll have to bid farewell to the cutest gummy grin there ever has been.

 I am hesistant to even type this, for fear of jinxing myself (those NICU nurses have really instilled the fear of jinxing in me!) but Clara is actually eating a little better.  The past month, her reflux seems to be much better.  She still spits up/throws up some, but it seems to be with less frequency.  She has started occasionally drinking six ounces of milk from the bottle – a new record for her.  And the work we’ve been doing with the feeding therapists suggestions seems to be helping spoon feeding too.  Just the past couple of days, we’re starting to get some significant volumes of solid purees in her.  Today, she ate 5-6 ounces of carrot/apple, yogurt, and a fruit blend and some bites off of a banana!  She still gags sometimes and throws up during eating, but I am feeling very encouraged that we seem to be making a little bit of progress.  One of the “tricks” that has worked for us is giving her food from those new squeezy pouches.  She likes when we squeeze those straight into her mouth and bypass the spoon all together.  She’s also drinking a tiny bit out of a regular cup (still no luck with sippy cups or straws, but we’ve been practicing those too)  Her bottle feeds are all still during her sleep, so we’re eager to get those weaned and have her eating more solids to sustain her.  I haven’t gotten a weight in awhile, but she feels bigger to me.  Hopefully she’s been gaining some.

We’ve also started to hear a few more consonants in her babble.  Last weekend she was experimenting with all kinds of new sounds: /m/, /b/, /d/, /w/…. We haven’t heard as much of those the past few days, but she’s definitely trying to get new octaves and volumes.  It’s fun to hear her voice changing. 

She is still a remarkably happy baby.  She will play on the floor, in a pack n play, or in her crib for long stretches of time.  She loves to sit with a basket of toys and slowly pull them out and play with them.  She loves reading more and more, it seems.  When we put the books away, she starts reaching for the next one and loves to help turn the pages.  It’s one of the few times she’ll sit still.  She likes listening to music and dancing and loves to wallow on the floor with her daddy or Big Daddy.  She’s started showing a little more personality about what she wants and doesn’t want the past month.  We’ve seen a new kind of cry that is really just a mini temper tantrum when she isn’t getting what she wants.  She still doesn’t show any signs of stranger anxiety.  Her face lights up when her daddy comes home or her Sweet Mama comes to visit.  

 One thing is for sure, I love her more and more every single day.  This month seems to have been filled with lots of sad news for other CDH families.  In the midst of Advent and preparation for Christmastime I am just so very grateful for our miracle and the sheer joy of watching her grow up so happy and (relatively) healthy.

God has been gracious to us.  We praise Him for each little curl on this sweet little head.  

Clara, nine months old
Happy Birthday, sweet girl.  We love you.

December 22, 2011

Red Velvet Christmas

We have been incredibly blessed to have a lot of hand-me-downs from good friends and two older cousins.  I know that Clara's wardrobe seems never-ending, but I promise I've done very little shopping for her!  This dress was in the stack from one of my favorite former students and it was so fun to put her in it, knowing that it was once worn by sweet Sophie!

Ahhh, but the problem with being on house arrest during Christmastime is that there aren't many occasions to put on a fancy dress!  This morning, we slipped away and met Grandma Doris and Kathy at Cracker Barrel for a Christmas lunch!  That's all the occasion we need.  Cracker Barrel?  Velvet dress?  Yes, that happened.

I have to say, Clara was pretty excited to be out in the world.  She was experimenting with new volumes we don't usually hear while in the restaurant!  I think she was trying to be louder than the hum of all the other guests. We'll have to work on our "restaurant voices"....

Mom and I were a little anxious about having her out.  It was clear to us how paranoid of germs we've become.  I brought my ziplock bag of Clorox wipes with me and was constantly wiping things down.  There are germs everywhere!  Hopefully we've sterilized enough and didn't bring any of those buggies home.  Just today, I've read about four other CDH babies close to Clara's age who have colds right now.  Eeeeeeee!!!!  Thanks for your continued prayers for a healthy winter.  I know that's more effective than all the lysol and bleach in the world....

The posed portraits are from another quick photo shoot in the bonus room this afternoon.  Can't pass up an opportunity to capture some grins when she's looking this cute.... After all, you don't wear a red velvet dress every day.

Christmas Card and Letter

I'm hoping that the hard copies have found their way into  mailboxes across the country by now, so I'm sharing this digital version with you folks who follow us online.  Christmas cards are one of my (admittedly, many) favorite Christmas traditions.  I don't hand address them anymore - the list has grown too long - but I lovingly sticker labels and stamps and return addresses on them, type and print and fold the letter, and stuff envelopes, all the while thinking of the recipients and saying a little prayer for each of them as the card and letter get packaged up to be sent their way.  It's one of those things that I hope never dies, despite the ease of sharing digitally these days.

I love receiving Christmas cards just as much.  It's the one time of year you're virtually guaranteed to have real mail in the box every day.  I hang the photocards up in my kitchen, and like my mama used to do when I was growing up, leave them there all year long.  It's a special way of remembering folks on a daily basis whom we see far too infrequently.

So, here's baby's first Christmas card.  And the letter that came with it.  Merry Christmas, internetland.

In case you needed a closer look at those...

 Dear Friends and Family,

It has always been my custom to write a Christmas letter to accompany the Christmas card.  It tells about the trips we took that year, the accomplishments we had, the high points and low points and things we learned along the way.  I have a feeling though, that anyone reading the letter this year has followed our blog and already knows the story of 2011.  It is the story of Clara.

We took a trip.  To Brenner Children’s Hospital.  We accomplished a lot.  We fought for the life of our baby.  We have experienced higher highs and lower lows than we ever imagined we would.  I have learned more than could ever be summed up in a Christmas letter.  As I try to reflect on all that’s happened this year single words pop into my head: Hope, Persistence, Prayer, Despair, Life, Exhaustion, Joy, Faith, Struggle, Grace, Family, Determination, Mercy, Friendship, Grief, Abundance…Love.  Truly, most of all, love.

We love this little baby with a passion.  We do not take one moment, one breath, for granted.  Her life and her story have changed our hearts forever.  We have experienced love from friends and family and total strangers in both ethereal and tangible ways.  We love others better, too.  Our hearts have broken for others facing this crisis, and others, in a whole new way.  We have learned to empathize and to pray and to love all over again.  We have learned what community is and what it means.  We are continually humbled by this calling in our lives and more than ever are seeking to glorify God through our daily actions and in the way that we raise Clara. It has been a year of love.

And at Christmas, what better feeling to be overwhelmed by?  When I hold Clara now, I imagine what it would have been like for Mary to hold Jesus and know what a high calling He had in this world.  I imagine how deeply she loved that baby boy and how much her heart broke when God took him.  I imagine how much God must love us to be willing to let His only child die.  Our hearts are full this Christmas and we are thankful for the joy, the grace and the love of this past year.  From our home to yours: Merry Christmas.   

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  -1 Corinthians 13:13

                                                                                                With our love,
                                                                                                The Hardys

And just for good measure, a couple more that didn't quite make the cut....

December 20, 2011

Clara the Baby Elf

This elf has been very very busy lately. 

Busy checking things out...

 And busy figuring things out...

 Busy crawling...

And doing elf splits, of course.

 Busy chewing...

And drooling...

And making lots and lots of toys for all the good little boys and girls....

Please, please don't tell me that small humans are not meant to be dressed up in ridiculous attire for the amusement of their mothers.  Because it's one of my favorite things to do.  She is a real live baby doll, right? Okay, good.

* Thanks, Shel for the elf outfit!  Heeheehee....
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