8 months
Let’s all join her in a round of applause because she is so cuddle-wonderful. Observe the unruly blond hair. The chub ruffles. The chins glistening with drool (which is in no short supply, despite the continuing absence of any teeth). The gleam in her eyes, which grow deeper and wiser and cleverer every day.

This just never gets old.

(It was damn hard choosing a favorite out of this month’s teddy bear photo shoot. Check out the other contenders in the Facebook album, or for non-Facebook people, the Flickr set.)

I’m running out of ways to tell you how awesome she is. We’ve already covered the sleeping through the night, the easy weaning, her daycare superstardom and her incessant, unassailable good mood. And every day, new details charm us: Natalie’s goofy bed head, her easy laugh, her blossoming balance and muscle control, clapping her hands, grabbing everything, almost-crawling, gobbling vegetable purees with gourmand gusto, and a near-constant stream of vocalizations that has on multiple occasions included ma-ma.

What made me happiest this morning, though, was her performance for the pediatrician at her eight-month checkup. She showed off all her best skills: pulling up, clapping, rolling from seated onto all fours (and then rocking back and forth and kicking), articulating at least five different consonants. And then, for the first time since the day she was born, she made her numbers. At seventeen pounds, six ounces, and a whopping 27 inches tall, she is hovering right around the fiftieth (50th) (fiftieth!!) percentile. Perhaps this is thanks to her newfound affection for solid foods. Or the six ounces of breastmilk she still gets every weekday morning from the freezer. In any event, it seems that she’s more or less completely recovered from our brief-yet-still-scary flirtation with Failure to Thrive. And I couldn’t be more relieved.

I think we may be reaching the end of the blissed-out behavioral cakewalk, though. As much fun as Natalie continues to be, she’s reaching the point developmentally where her demands on our attention are necessarily increasing. She no longer stays where you put her. She is no longer content to play by herself for more than a few minutes before expressing a preference for human interaction. And my intrepid commuter child, never shy to begin with, has lost all inhibition and now thinks nothing of grabbing at strangers’ purses or pant legs on the bus.

I’m starting to wonder whether we may be spoiling Natalie. It’s so easy to pick her up when she fusses, and then, mirabile dictu, she’ll stop fussing. Right now this works fine for all of us. But what happens as she gets older, as she learns that we’ll gladly put ourselves out to prevent her from making a scene? Will she learn to play us like musical instruments, training us to do her precise bidding in order to avoid fallout? Or will we reach a point where we come into conflict, her irresistible force crashing into the two immovable objects that are her parents?

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, she’s still the baby we dreamed of, in every detail, and we are loving every inch and ounce and squeal and moment of her.