The tooth hurts

One of the most bittersweet moments in a mom’s life occurs with a baby’s first tooth. On the one hand, it’s a milestone and we’re always happy to be able to fill out a new section in the baby book. On the other, it’s unbearable to think we’ll never see that gummy smile again.

On Friday, as I was enjoying those beautiful gleaming gums, I noticed a little area where they weren’t gleaming. On further inspection, they revealed a narrow, barely visible slit where the gumline had just barely been broken by the ridge of James lower right incisor.

After a few days, it’s evident to all that there’s a little tooth poking through, and the one right beside it isn’t far behind. Aside from not sleeping so well, James seems none the worse for wear. He plays happily all day and is more than willing to show us where his new pearly whites will soon be.

Since we’re still hammering out the details of how many more kids we want (if any), this milestone is made especially bittersweet by the thought that it may be the last gummy grin we will enjoy for, oh, another 20-odd years. (Or even 30! But hopefully not 10…)

Rice, rice baby

When his big sister was a wee thing, it seemed like forever between her first efforts to steal our food and that long-awaited first meal. However, James is a pretty laid-back kid in most respects, and his attitude toward food is no different. He’s looked at our food with a sort of vague interest as we eat, but he’s expressed no desire to actually try some himself. Nor were we in any hurry to feed James, as giving an infant a solid meal often requires a good 10 minutes of prepping and a half-hour of cleanup, not to mention the feeding time itself — which, if the baby isn’t a voracious and competent eater, can take at least another half-hour. But our pediatrician suggested that James was of such an age and size that solids would be beneficial now, so today marked our wee boy’s commencement into the world of nondairy nourishment.

The overall verdict? James pronounced his rice cereal mildly entertaining but not the be-all-end-all it proved for his sister. Most of it wound up on his chin or in his right hand, which he insisted on repeatedly thrusting in his mouth to investigate this odd starchy substance that was being shoveled into his slobbery little maw. He’s definitely going to need a little practice on this whole eating thing, we discovered.

Not the tidy eater his sister was, we suspect that the introduction of solids will necessitate a nightly bath time, as James eats not with his mouth but with his entire body. His propensity for slime and odor was driving us in that direction anyway, but the fact that I am an accomplished and tidy baby-feeder and still couldn’t keep him from covering himself in rice cereal definitely speaks for James’ future cleansing requirements.

And here they are: The long-awaited (at least by me) shots of James’ first solid meal:

James takes his very first bite of food

“Hey, this doesn’t taste like milk …”

James decides food isn’t half bad

Terrific two

Maddi has been quite the obstinate and tantrum-prone one-year-old, so it would stand to reason that if two is supposed to be terrible, we were in for quite a year. Luckily, rather than things getting worse when Maddi turned two, it seems Maddi simply hit her “terrible twos” a year early and is now on the road to becoming a happy, helpful and well-behaved little girl.

Shortly before her birthday, Maddi began learning new words every day and putting them into longer and longer sentences. They’re still not the impressive complex sentences Chris and I were using at her age (or, let’s face it, a lot younger), but she can get her point across much more easily. Consequently, situations that used to result in screaming tantrums can now be defused by asking Maddi to use her words.

Maddi’s independence has long been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, she doesn’t need me to entertain her every second of the day; on the other, her lack of fear means that I do have to closely supervise her every second of the day. But now, the same independence that has led her to climb furniture and run away and hide in the gym parking lot has blossomed into a desire to do grown-up things herself — which is something that I’m able to channel into activities that will either divert her or help me (or both!). For instance, Maddi is delighted to put her sippy cup in the refrigerator after meals, which means I have five seconds to rinse her bowl and I have one fewer cup to deal with. And since she understands complex instructions, I can ask her to go fetch me James’ striped overalls that are hanging from the laundry-room doorknob and Maddi will happily comply.

Maddi is about 50 percent potty-trained (depending on the circumstances) and is eager to sit on toilets at the mall, at the grocery store — even at Daddy’s favorite card shop. Often, she uses the big toilet, but when she uses the little potty, Maddi will even empty it out herself and hand it to me to rinse.

At two, she’s become very coordinated physically. As you may recall, she has long enjoyed leaping from the sofa to the ottoman and then to the other sofa. She now jumps in place (and can be heard doing so, while narrating with a chorus of “Jump, jump, jump,” in her crib during naptime), spins in circles, walks backward, kicks a ball well, and can climb as high as she pleases at our friendly local McDonald’s PlayPlace.

Even though she’s made dramatic improvements on the behavior front, I wasn’t sure I wanted to throw a big blowout party for a dozen 2-year-olds while watching after my own active toddler and newish baby. So I decided to decorate with dollar-store balloons and streamers this year and pull out all the stops next year when she and her friends will be old enough to enjoy it more. Maddi celebrated her birthday Sunday afternoon with a low-key family party — just Mommy, Daddy, Maddi, James and Nana and Poppa.

While the party was small, that’s not to say it wasn’t fun for Maddi. Our wee one’s eyes lit up when she entered the dining room and spied streamers festooning the dining area and a heap of grass-green balloons surrounding presents piled on a barn-red tablecloth. Using her intense love of our neighborhood horses as inspiration, I decorated her cake using plastic ponies from her favorite mall toystore. We’d practiced blowing out flames in the days leading up to her birthday, and when the time came, Maddi was delighted to snuff the candles on her birthday cake.

The biggest hit of the day, however, was the outdoor play equipment Maddi received. Our little climber is the proud owner of an adjustable rock-climbing toy and a sandbox, both of which were promptly put to good use. The climbing toy is for ages 3 and up, technically, but we figured that if she can climb a dresser and surf on a rocking horse, our little princess should have no problem navigating ladders and footholds. We figured correctly. Not only does she climb the ladder and the rock wall with ease, Maddi also can scramble up the slide in two seconds flat.

All in all, she had a marvelous birthday (even without a dozen of her little friends running wild) and what we can only hope is the beginning of a wonderful year!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of Maddi enjoying her grass-green birthday cake:

Shot and awe

Given the choice between ripping a bandage off and easing it off, I’m one of those people who wants to get it over with quickly, no matter how painful. Thus, James’ two big appointments — vaccinations and 6-month heart-followup-slash-physical — came to be on the same day. I’d like to be able to say it was more stressful for me than it was for him, but we both know it wasn’t me getting needles jabbed in my thighs or gagging on a tongue depressor.

Despite these traumas, James did beautifully and was smiling and bouncing 10 minutes after his shots. (His vocal expressions of displeasure did, however, make it very hard for the doctor to listen to his chest.)

And after our day of bandage-ripping, I am pleased to announce that James has no shots for six more months AND (drumroll, please) his pediatrician could no longer detect the murmur. He will have a cardiac echo at 1 year old to make sure the hole is completely gone, but our particular doctor has a local reputation for having a good ear for murmurs and arrhythmias and for him to be unable to hear James’ is excellent news.

James is nursing a slightly warmer temperature than normal, but he’s his usual happy self otherwise, and it’s needless to say that after today’s news, we’re more happy than usual. Oh, and in case you’ve seen a recent picture of James and wondered whatever happened to that teensy little preemie who was floating in his 3-5 lb. sleepers just six months ago, well, he’s been replaced by a little sumo wrestler who measures 26.5 inches and weighs in (butt naked) at 15 lbs., 6 oz.