All smiles

James has been smiling for several weeks now, but this week he’s gotten jollier still. Perhaps he is seeing us better or maybe his gas is clearing up, but our wee boy has several long periods during the day in which he’s awake, alert and smiling his cute little face off. Recently, he’s begun spontaneously smiling when he notices someone looking at him or coming toward him. Even at 4 a.m., when he’s fussing in his swing (yes, I’m a bad mom and my baby sleeps exclusively in a swing!!), James greets me with a smile as I groggily stumble toward him, making the early-morning wakeups all worthwhile.

He also coos constantly, and if he’s not cooing, all one has to do is look James in the eyes and say “ah-goo” and he will coo sweetly back in his darling little baby voice.

For awhile, James had something sort of like colic, only not as bad. There was a five-hour stretch every night where he cried more often than not, and I was worried that it would last forever. Luckily, just as Maddi’s did, James’ fussy spells ended as we transitioned him into a proper sleeping schedule (which, I was thrilled to learn yesterday, is exactly what the doctors at the famous U.S. Colic Clinic recommend) and lo and behold, his sunny disposition became an (almost) all-day thing. Except for a short period close to bedtime, we can usually coax a gummy grin from little James any time of day or night with a minimum of parental silliness.

And here is a picture of our 13-week-old boy doing his thing:

Moonlight Madness

One of the many things we call Maddux is Mad-Mad — not only because it’s an obvious and easy nickname, but also because she is completely insane. Don’t get us wrong; we love our crazy little daughter and we mean her no disrespect in saying that she’s nuts. But she’s bonkers, and it goes beyond even what one would expect from a little girl of almost 2.

Current “expert opinion” on the crib-to-big-kid-bed transition is that once kids are climbing out of the crib, they should be moved into a bed so as to save their wee skulls from possible concussions. However, I’m increasingly convinced that this advice has been influenced to no small degree by the children’s furniture industry. Maddi clambers about on furniture both low and high with the ease and agility of a mountain goat. And the few times she’s fallen — such as the time she went racing across the sofa to be kneecapped by the arm and tumbled out of sight, head over heels, over the edge — Maddi has barely been fazed.

Had we thought the matter through thoroughly, we would have realized that a) Maddi has no problem navigating the perils of tall furniture and would remain perfectly safe in her crib and b) giving our daughter a big-girl bed would be like turning over the asylum to the inmates.

Maddi was very excited by the prospect of her big-girl bed and had no fears or reservations concerning the transition. Knowing her as we do, this should have been our first indication that our wee girl would use her newfound freedom for evil and not for good. But, naive parents that we were, we figured what could she possibly do in her newly babyproofed room?

Cue maniacal laughter

After picking out an adorable toddler bed for our adorable toddler, we spent two days organizing and babyproofing Maddi’s room. Medicines and ointments were stowed away; furniture items were tethered to the walls; childproof locks and knobs went onto doors and closets and special childproof outlets replaced the old hardware; the room was bare but for her bed, her outgrown crib, her dresser and selected toys. In short, we thought we had it covered. But pride cometh before a fall, and we were in for quite the surprise.

Maddi managed to pull everything out of every drawer in her dresser, as we had expected. What we had not expected was that, from the headboard of her toddler bed, she would manage to climb atop her dresser-slash-change-table and, inserting her fingers into minuscule cracks in the vinyl changing pad, begin eviscerating said foam pad. (Among sundry other unforseen acts of terrrorism perpetrated in that blackest of weeks.)

Then there was the issue of naptime. Her first full day in the new room, Maddi romped about for an hour or so and was eventually discovered slumbering in the space underneath her old crib, where she had apparently succumbed to the sandman mid-play. The next day, she napped in her big-girl bed. We were delighted — completely unaware that this was the last nap she would ever take in her big-girl room. For the next several days, naptime was ushered in by the sounds of revelry and mysterious banging and thumping noises from Maddi’s quarters. And the noises didn’t stop. When Maddi grew tired of playing, she would bang on the wall and scream blue murder for hours on end. We removed her toys in hopes that she would sleep better, but our darling princess merely turned to the heating intake grate, the spring door stop and her dresser drawers (and their supply of diapers) for entertainment.

Now if Maddi was not the type of child who needed naps, we wouldn’t have minded her naptime frolics. But while a well-rested Maddi, if a little spirited, is an absolute delight to be around, an ill-rested Maddi lives up to the nickname Mad-Mad, whether you define “mad” as angry or crazy. We had planned on giving the new bed a two-week trial period, but after six days of hitting, scratching, deliberate use of crayons on furniture, spitting, biting, tantruming and other insanity, we decided that it would be to the benefit of everyone to move her back into the crib, where she would theoretically begin napping again.

While the kids and I were at the gym, Chris — blinking back tears — dismantled the beloved toddler bed and moved everything back as it had been before our fateful decision to move Maddi from the crib. We’re still working on getting her to stop vaulting out of the crib 20 times an afternoon, but she’s been operating at only 20 percent insanity instead of full-tilt crazy as she had been during “Dawn of the Bed.”

And here’s a picture of our little sweetheart assessing her new big-girl bed, before everything went horribly wrong:

And 15 minutes later, when we came in to lock her childproof light switch in the off position:

Child’s play

As bad as I feel that James will never have the luxury of my undivided attention as Maddi did, it’s comforting to know that in other ways, he’s better off than she. With Maddi, I was so shellshocked by her colic that it never even occurred to me to play with her until about a month and a half in. But with James, even if the thought wouldn’t have crossed my mind on its own, he would have been played with earlier if only because it’s impossible to spend all my time consumed by caring for a screaming baby when there is a toddler to entertain.

Luckily, James’ fussy periods are a walk in the park and can often be alleviated by some vigorous bouncing and singing. But not the soothing lullabye kind of tunes one might use for a new baby — like his big sister, he prefers to gallop on a spirited knee-horsey to the refrain “This is the Way the Farmer Rides.” Which is lucky, because there’s only one mommy and two little ones.

Thus, on days when both kids are shrieking at full-tilt — Maddi for attention and James for entertainment — if I am lucky I can manage to calm them both down with a simple knee-bouncing song. Two kids plus two knees equals instant (relative) quiet! Of course this is taxing on the legs, not to mention that one leg gets more than twice the workout of the other, but what’s a little lactic acid buildup when you’re soothing life’s little heartaches? My arms got quite chiseled when Maddi was this age, so it’s about time my legs caught up.

And here, in James’ twelfth week, are my two nonscreaming kids enjoying a bounce on my knees (I promise they are happier than they look!):

Tootie cutie

He’s the forefather of fetidness, the sultan of stink, and the master of methane. I introduce to you that scourge of the sinuses, that nexus of nostril-burning noxiousness (insert drumroll here) Stenchmaster Jay. And in honor of our little green cloud, may I present to you, dear readers, a poem:

James, James, the musical neonate
The more he eats, the more he flatulates
The more he flatulates, the louder he screams
So Mommy can’t eat any broccoli or beans.

You may think you’ve smelled stinky babies before, but let me assure you that your nostrils have not sniffed until they’ve caught a whiff of our singular stinking sensation, James William Phillips. Night and day, our little guy grunts and squirms and emits a highly compressed gas that smells like rotten eggs, only more so. It’s enough to drive his own father from the room.

Maddi’s gas was “bad” in that it was painful and caused her to spend her first two and a half months screaming at the top of her little lungs. James’ gas is just BAD. It sounds bad, and it smells worse! And here, for your viewing pleasure (’cause goodness knows smelling him isn’t pleasurable), is our 11-week-old stinkbug:

Mama’s boy

They say it’s not possible to spoil a baby, but we’re beginning to wonder. Although James is, for the most part, an easy baby, he does have a few little quirks. First off, sometimes no one but Mommy will do — even if he’s not hungry. With Maddi, it didn’t matter who was holding her as long as they had food. But even if he’s just been fed, if James is tired or gassy, nine times out of 10, he will fuss and fret until the instant he is in my arms. We joke that he has “Mommy-dar” because he has the uncanny ability to figure out when I have left the room. He can be chilling on Daddy’s lap, but try as I might to sneak off and give Maddi a bath, quite often he begins squeaking his disapproval within seconds of my slinking out. In fact, James will even awaken from a dead sleep the instant I have left any room.

Another of James’ idiosyncrasies is his “food-dar,” which alerts him to the fact that I am eating. Anytime I’m trying to get a bit of nourishment into my body, James’ food-dar goes off and he emits a series of grunts, which, if left unanswered, will escalate to short, insistent cries that sound an awful lot like he’s yelling at me. He will lie contentedly in his bouncy seat sucking on a pacifier for hours, but the instant he hears the sound of butter being spread on a sandwich or a pizza slice being microwaved, James will settle for nothing less than being held by Mommy herself.

The pediatrician asked this week if James is able to track with his eyes yet. I had to laugh because for weeks, James has been tracking me from across the room. His eyes never leave me no matter where I go. Maddi can be making silly faces, Daddy can be trying to talk to the little guy, but James only has eyes for Mommy. I finally know what celebrities feel like. (Daddy already has had his turn with Maddi, who has long greeted him with the breathless enthusiasm of a teenage girl in the Beatles’ heyday.)

I must say that while I’d really like to be able to shower and eat in the same day, I’m quite flattered by our little son’s apparent adoration of me. In fact, while I am fortunately capable of holding it together when he’s absent from a room, I think he’s pretty wonderful himself!

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a picture of our 10-week-old cutie patootie (who, by the way, measures in at a healthy 11 pounds, 15 ounces and 22.5 inches as of Friday and has been released by his pediatrician to the care of our family doctor!):

Baby blues

This past week may well have been the worst in James’ life. It started off with a touch of RSV, then a circumcision, and was capped off by his two-month vaccinations.

About a week and a half ago, James came down with a wheezy-sounding cough. A few days later, he began sounding congested, so I took him in to see his pediatrician on Wednesday. After a thorough checkup, Dr. Finkleman told us that he was fairly sure James had RSV, a common virus that can cause life-threatening complications for premies, but that James’ chest was clear so we would take a wait-and-see approach. The doctor called our house every morning for updates on James, and fortunately, our little guy turned around in a few days’ time and seems to be kicking the bug on his own.

On Thursday, we went forward with his routine circumcision. After much debate, it was decided long ago that our wee son would get that unkindest of cuts before he was able to remember it. (Sorry, little guy!!) I would have preferred to hold him during the procedure as it’s said to reduce stress for the baby, but we weren’t even allowed in the room. They assured us that he would have a nerve block and wouldn’t feel a thing (and indeed, the only time he cried was when they took his diaper off, per usual!), but I still could have used a Valium myself. James came out as happy as a clam and slept the afternoon away, but later that night we knew he was in pain.

Despite generous application of lidocaine and a dropperful of Tylenol, James was a fussy boy. He cried for hours and stayed up until 1 a.m. The next day, he continued to be fussy, but went to bed at 9 and slept for six hours straight. He was so not himself, in fact, that on Monday I took him in to the urologist just to make sure everything was OK. Luckily, all was well with his wee-wee, so we just continued giving him Tylenol periodically.

Then, yesterday, he had his two-month shots. As a newborn, his little feet were so bruised it was difficult for the nurses to find new spots to do heel sticks, and while I can watch a knee replacement surgery while eating lasagna, it was hard for me to watch my own baby being poked and prodded so much. Needless to say, even after nearly two months, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing James being stuck with needles again. Always the optimist, I asked the nurse if there was any possibility a baby of his age might just sleep through the injections. The nurse, as one might expect, looked at me as if I were insane. Oh, well!

James had four vaccinations and screamed mightily through each one. He cried so hard, in fact, that the nurse had trouble stopping the bleeding from the first site because he was straining so much. Naturally, the sight of such pain being inflicted on my little premie baby had me very nearly in tears as well, although I’m sure that my pain was nothing compared to that of my wee son.

Needless to say, James’ sleeping patterns are once more in chaos (not that they were ever really perfect in the first place) and he hasn’t been the happiest baby in a week or so. But who can blame the little guy?

And here it is — our pic of our 11-pound, 2-ounce boy (being subjected to yet more torture) at nine weeks old: